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By the beginning of 1968, however, many people in the Social Democratic Party had become disillusioned with Paasio's leadership style, and Koivisto came to emerge as the chief candidate to succeed Paasio as Prime Minister; this happened on 22 March 1968.
He served as Prime Minister for two years until the Parliamentary election of 1970, which saw the other parties in his coalition government suffer heavy losses, bringing about his own resignation.
Those statements were not often easy to interpret, unlike Kekkonen's blunt and sometimes harsh statements (see, for example, "The Republic's President 1956-1982"/Tasavallan presidentti 1956-1982, published in Finland in 1993-94; "The Republic's President 1982-1994"/Tasavallan presidentti 1982-1994, published in Finland in 1993-94; Mauno Koivisto, "Two Terms I: Memories and Notes, 1982-1994"/Kaksi kautta I.
Muistikuvia ja merkintöjä 1982-1994, Helsinki: Kirjayhtymä Publishing Ltd., 1994).
In addition to his political engagements and ongoing career Koivisto continued with his education, passing his intermediate examination in 1947 and his university entrance examination in 1949; in 1951 he became a primary school teacher.
On 22 June 1952, he married Tellervo Kankaanranta (born 1929).
After attending primary school, Koivisto worked a number of jobs, and at the beginning of the Winter War in 1939 joined a field firefighting unit at the age of 16, during the Continuation War, Koivisto served in the Infantry Detachment Törni led by Lauri Törni, which was a reconnaissance detachment operating behind enemy lines.
As a result, Koivisto became the first Social Democrat to be elected Finland's president.
While reflecting on his wartime experiences later in life, he said "When you have taken part in a game in which your own life is at stake, all other games are small after that".
After the war, he earned a living as a carpenter and became active in politics, joining the Social Democratic Party, during his early years, Koivisto was also influenced by anarchism and anarchosyndicalism.
As president, he kept a low profile and used less authoritarian leadership tactics than Kekkonen had, refraining from using some of his presidential powers and initiating a new era of parliamentarianism in Finland, on the other hand, he had a sometimes difficult relationship with journalists, whom he famously called "lemmings".
One practical problem that quite a few reporters had with Koivisto's statements was their deeply pondering and philosophical nature.