Pekka Haavisto, of the Greens Party, has advanced to a runoff election against Sauli Niinisto in the race to become Finland's president, the AP reported.

Niinisto led 7 rivals in Sunday's presidential election with 37 percent of the vote, but failed to receive the majority needed to win the contest. The two highest vote-getters advance to a February 5 runoff election.

Haavisto is the first openly gay candidate to run for the post in Finland.

The president is largely removed from daily politics, but holds tremendous influence over public opinion.

The 63-year-old Niinisto, a former finance minister and member of the conservative National Coalition Party, narrowly lost a 2006 presidential bid.

Haavisto, 53, is a former environmental minister who is involved in the United Nations.

“He's extremely cultured and civilized. We need a member of a new, educated generation who hasn't been corrupted by politics,” supporter Laila Halme told the news service.

Haavisto has been in a registered partnership for 10 years.

A poll released Thursday shows Niinisto winning next month's runoff with a majority of the vote.