Tarja Halonen

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Tarja Kaarina Halonen ([tɑrjɑ kɑːrinɑ hɑlonen]  ( listen); born 24 December 1943) is the 11th and current President of Finland. The first female to hold the office, Halonen had previously been a member of the parliament from 1979 to 2000 when she resigned after her election to the presidency. In addition to her political career she had a long and extensive career in trade unions and different non-governmental organizations.

Halonen is a graduate of the University of Helsinki, where she studied law from 1963 to 1968. She was active in student politics and served as the Social Affairs Secretary and Organization Secretary of the National Union of Students from 1969 to 1970. In 1971 she joined the Social Democratic Party and worked as a lawyer in the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions until she was elected to parliament in 1979.

Halonen served in the parliament of Finland for six terms, from 1979 to 2000, representing the constituency of Helsinki. She also had a long career in the city council of Helsinki, serving there from 1977 to 1996. She started her campaign for the presidency at the beginning of 1999 after President Martti Ahtisaari announced that he would not stand for a second term in the office. She easily won her party's nomination, and eventually got 40% of the votes in the first round of the presidential elections, and 51.6% in the second, thus defeating the Centre Party's Esko Aho and becoming the 11th president of Finland.

During the time of her presidency she has been extremely popular among Finns: her approval ratings rose and reached a peak of 88% in December 2003. Even though her ratings were so good, she was not re-elected in the first round in the next presidential elections in 2006. She beat National Coalition Party candidate Sauli Niinistö in the second round by 51.8% against 48.2%. In 2004 she finished 5th in a TV-show called Great Finns, which was based on the BBC's 100 Greatest Britons.

Halonen is widely known for her interest in human rights issues. In 1980–81 Halonen served as the chairman of SETA, the main LGBT rights organization in Finland. During her presidency, she has participated actively in discussion of women's rights and problems of globalization. In 2006, she was mentioned by many sources as a potential candidate for the United Nations Secretary-General selection, but later she stated that she wanted to finish her term as president before thinking about other career options. Halonen is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an International network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers whose mission is to mobilize the highest-level women leaders globally for collective action on issues of critical importance to women and equitable development. In 2009, Forbes named her among the 100 Most Powerful Women in the world.[1]

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