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Former Prime Minister Alexander Stubb narrowly clinches Finnish presidency, defeating ex-foreign minister Pekka Haavisto

Ex-PM Alexander Stubb wins Finnish presidency, narrowly defeating former top diplomat Pekka Haavisto

Former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb secured victory in Finland’s presidential election runoff against ex-Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto in a closely contested race for the presidency. Stubb’s win comes at a crucial juncture as Finland navigates its foreign and security policies, particularly after joining NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

After all votes were tallied, Stubb, representing the center-right National Coalition Party, clinched 51.6% of the votes, while Haavisto, running independently with green left affiliations, garnered 48.4%.

At 55 years old, Stubb, who previously served as prime minister from 2014 to 2015 and began his political journey as a lawmaker in the European Parliament in 2004, is set to become Finland’s 13th president since its independence from the Russian empire in 1917.

Former Prime Minister Alexander Stubb narrowly clinches Finnish presidency, defeating ex-foreign minister Pekka Haavisto

Former Prime Minister Alexander Stubb narrowly clinches Finnish presidency, defeating ex-foreign minister Pekka Haavisto (Credits: The Washinton Post)

Haavisto gracefully conceded defeat following a projection by the Finnish public broadcaster YLE announcing Stubb’s victory. The two candidates exchanged congratulations at Helsinki City Hall, where they awaited the election results alongside the media.

The election campaign, spanning several months, adhered to Finland’s consensus-driven political culture, characterized by cordiality and absence of negative campaigning. Stubb acknowledged this in his address to Haavisto, expressing pride in the integrity of the race.

Both Stubb and Haavisto emerged as principal contenders in the election, vying to succeed the immensely popular President Sauli Niinistö, whose second six-year term concludes in March. Sunday’s runoff became necessary after none of the initial nine candidates secured over half of the votes in the first round held on January 28.

Stubb, who has also held ministerial positions in foreign affairs, finance, and European affairs, was favored to win according to several polls.

While initial voter turnout stood at 70.7%, a decline from the first round, where it reached 75%, the significance of the election was not diminished.

In Finland, unlike many other European countries, the president wields considerable influence in shaping foreign and security policies, particularly regarding nations outside the European Union like the United States, Russia, and China.

Throughout the campaign, both Stubb and Haavisto emphasized similar foreign policy and security priorities, including maintaining a robust stance towards Moscow, enhancing security cooperation with Washington, and supporting Ukraine both militarily and economically.

As Finland faces a changed geopolitical landscape, with its NATO membership since April 2023 following Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the role of the president in commanding the military becomes increasingly crucial.

Stubb’s win received international acknowledgment, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy extending sincere congratulations, highlighting the shared commitment to European security.

The Finnish presidency traditionally remains aloof from day-to-day politics, focusing on national unity and representing Finland on the global stage.

Haavisto, a seasoned diplomat and environmental advocate, served as Finland’s top diplomat from 2019 to 2023 and played a pivotal role in the country’s NATO accession negotiations. This marked his third presidential bid.

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