Finland's ex-PM, Alexander Stubb, wins presidential bid

National Coalition Party candidate Alexander Stubb celebrates with his wife Suzanne Innes-Stubb
National Coalition Party candidate Alexander Stubb celebrates with his wife Suzanne Innes-Stubb Copyright Sergei Grits/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews with AP
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After a close presidential race, former Finnish Prime Minister, Alexander Stubb, won Sunday's election runoff against former Foreign Minister, Pekka Haavisto.

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With all votes counted, centre-right candidate Alexander Stubb of the National Coalition Party had 51.6% of the votes, while independent candidate Pekka Haavisto from the green left got 48.4%.

The 55-year-old, who was prime minister from 2014 to 2015 will become the 13th president of Finland since the Nordic country’s independence from the Russian empire in 1917.

On Sunday night, Haavisto conceded defeat after a projection by the Finnish public broadcaster YLE showed a win for Stubb. He congratulated this centre-right opponent at Helsinki City Hall, where the candidates and the media were watching the results come in.

A fair and clean race

The months-long election campaign was polite and non-confrontational in line with consensus-driven Finnish politics with no below-the-belt attacks from any candidates - something that Stubb noted in his speech to Haavisto.

“This has been a fair, great race,” Stubb told Haavisto after the clear result. “I'm proud that I have been able to run with you in these elections. Thanks for a good race.”

Stubb and Haavisto were the main contenders in the election where over 4 million eligible voters picked a successor to hugely popular President Sauli Niinistö, whose second six-year term expires in March. He wasn’t eligible for reelection.

Sunday’s runoff comes after none of the original nine candidates got more than half of the votes in the first voting round on the 28th of January. At that time, Stubb emerged at the top with 27.3% of the ballots, with Haavisto as runner-up with 25.8%.

Several polls indicated Stubb, who has also served as Finland's foreign, finance and European affairs minister, was the favourite to win the presidency.

Initial voter turnout was 70.7%, markedly lower than during the first voting round when it was 75%.

Foreign and security policy at the top of the agenda

Unlike in most European countries, the president of Finland holds executive power in formulating foreign and security policy together with the government, especially concerning countries outside the European Union such as the United States, Russia and China.

Stubb and Haavisto largely agreed on Finland’s foreign policy and security priorities during the election campaign. These include maintaining a hard line toward Moscow and Russia’s current leadership, strengthening security ties with Washington, and the need to help Ukraine both militarily and at a civilian level. Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer border with Russia.

The head of state also commands the military — a significant detail seeing Europe’s current security environment and the changed geopolitical situation of Finland, which joined NATO in April 2023 in the aftermath of Russia’s attack on Ukraine a year earlier.

The Finnish president is expected to remain above the fray of day-to-day politics and largely to stay out of domestic political disputes.

'A new, strong asset'

Most European leaders have congratulated Stubb on his election victory, including European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen who wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that with his "leadership, experience and European commitment, our Union has a new, strong asset."

EU Council President Charles Michel also underlined Stubb's "experience and leadership" as "an asset in strengthening our common our common foreign and security policy in these troubled times."

Ulf Kristersson, the Prime Minister of neighbouring Sweden, offered his "warm congratulations", adding: "I look forward to our cooperation and to meeting in Sweden soon."

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