Conservative Alexander Stubb narrowly won the second and decisive round of the Finnish presidential elections this Sunday, ahead of his rival, environmentalist Pekka Haavisto, and will be the Nordic country’s next head of state. With 96.6% of the votes counted, former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb obtained 51.7% of the votes, against 48.3% for Pekka Haavisto, a difference lower than predicted in the polls, but enough to succeed in the Finnish Presidency over also conservative Sauli Niniistö.
In the first round of the presidential elections, held on January 28, the conservative Stubb, from the National Coalition party (in power), won with 27.2% of the votes, while Haavisto, a member of the Greens who presented himself as an independent, obtained 25. 8%. The participation rate was 75%.
Stubb, who was an MEP, prime minister and held three ministerial portfolios, including Finance and Foreign Affairs, receives a large part of the votes from the center-right and extreme right, while Haavisto, Minister of Foreign Affairs in the previous government (led by Sanna Marin), is supported by the center-left and environmentalist voters.
Elected for a six-year term, the President of Finland has limited powers, but his diplomatic role has gained importance on the international scene since the intensification of tensions with neighboring Russia, following the war in Ukraine, and the Nordic country’s accession to the NATO in April 2023. Both candidates have very similar positions on foreign, defense and security policy, the main role of the President.
Relations with neighboring Russia, which deteriorated after the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and Finland’s subsequent accession to NATO, will be the main concerns of Sauli Niinistö’s (National Coalition) successor, who leaves at the end of 12 years, for not being able to run for a third term.
This electoral race marks a return to politics for Alexander Stubb, 55, Prime Minister between 2014 and 2015, after a few years in the academic world. For the last three years, he has taught and directed the European University Institute of Florence, in Italy, after withdrawing from political life after failing to win the position of president of the European Commission in 2018, when German Ursula Von der Leyen was elected. .
Stubb has already confessed that it was the Russian invasion of Ukraine that motivated him to return to politics: “I felt there could be a potential existential threat from Russia.” Elected as a Member of the European Parliament in 2004, Stubb entered Finnish politics in 2008 and held several ministerial positions: Finance, Foreign Affairs and European Affairs. He was also vice-president of the European Investment Bank.
Pekka Haavisto, 65, was one of the architects of Finland’s accession to NATO, putting an end to decades of military non-alignment in the Nordic country. Haavisto, an experienced diplomat, had his baptism of fire as an international mediator in 1990, when he was sent to Kuwait following the invasion of Iraq to negotiate the release of a group of captive Finns.
In 2005, he was the European Union’s special envoy for peace talks in Darfur. A UN diplomat specializing in the environment, he has been a presidential candidate twice, in 2012 and 2018, losing to Sauli Niinistö. Pekka Haavisto is also known as an amateur DJ, under the stage name DJ Pexi.
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