* Niinisto supports EU, same party as PM Katainen
* Eurosceptics defeated in first round
* Voters chose economic pragmatism - analysts
By Ritsuko Ando and Eero Vassinen
HELSINKI, Feb 5 Pro-Europe politician
Sauli Niinisto won Finland's presidency on Sunday in an election
that showed voters want to keep the country in the euro zone
despite misgivings over European Union bailouts.
The former finance minister won with 63 percent support,
defeating pro-euro Greens Party candidate Pekka Haavisto.
The two had beaten anti-euro candidates, Paavo Vayrynen of
the Centre party and Timo Soini of the Finns Party, in an
earlier round last month.
The weak showing by the eurosceptics was a relief
for Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, who like Niinisto is a member
of the National Coalition party which supports conservative
Analysts said worries about Europe's debt crisis could drag
Finland's export-dependent economy into recession may have
persuaded voters to choose a steady and pragmatic pair of hands.
"In tough times people want to believe that somebody is in
control of the economy," said University of Helsinki professor
Niinisto said Finland was and would remain supportive of
European monetary union but that he understood Finnish voters'
frustration over the debt crisis.
"The Finnish people have full right to be critical, but at
the same time I would like to say that Finland has shown more
solidarity than anybody else," he told Reuters.
Niinisto is credited with leading the small Nordic economy
towards growth following the collapse of the Soviet Union during
his tenure as finance minister from 1996 to 2001.
He is also supportive of tough fiscal reforms that Katainen
is pushing in order to plug its deficit and make sure it retains
its triple-A debt rating.
"I voted for Niinisto because I think in the
current economic situation we need a president who has that kind
of expertise," said Katri, a 23-year-old student.
Some analysts had expected a stronger showing by anti-euro
candidates, particularly Soini, whose Finns Party made strong
gains in parliamentary elections last April and is now the
biggest opposition group.
Niinisto and Haavisto may have also benefited from a
backlash against eurosceptic politicians after some Finns Party
candidates made highly publicised racist and homophobic remarks.
While Haavisto, the first openly gay presidential candidate,
conceded with 37 percent, his success in the first round was a
triumph for his party - a minor member of government
with only 10 out of 200 seats in parliament.
Incumbent President Tarja Halonen was elected as the
country's first female president in 2000 and re-elected in 2006.
She steps down on March 1 having served the maximum 12 years.