Photo: Emmi Korhonen/Lehtikuva via Agence France-Presse “The only thing I think about now is recognition. This is a great victory for democracy in Finland, I am extremely proud of all the Finns who voted,” reacted Alexander Stubb to the publication of the provisional results.
Anna Hollingsworth – Agence France-Presse in Helsinki
February 11, 2024
Former conservative Prime Minister Alexander Stubb won the presidential election in Finland on Sunday against his rival Pekka Haavisto, in a vote marked by tensions with neighboring Russia since the country's accession to NATO .
“Alexander, congratulations to the 13th president of Finland,” Mr. Haavisto, a former foreign minister and member of the Greens, conceded on public television, but who was running as an independent.
Mr Stubb has 51.7% of the vote, after 98.3% of the ballots have been counted. 70.7% of the approximately 4.3 million voters came to vote in this second round.
“The only thing I think about now is gratitude. This is a great victory for democracy in Finland, I am extremely proud of all Finns who voted,” Mr. Stubb responded to the publication of the provisional results.
With limited powers compared to the Prime Minister, the head of state, elected for six years, directs the country's foreign policy in close cooperation with the government. He is also supreme commander of the armed forces.
A notable role which has become even more important due to geopolitical developments in Europe and the entry into NATO of Finland, which shares 1,340 kilometers of border with Russia.
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Neutral during the Cold War, the Nordic country ended three decades of military non-alignment after the invasion of Ukraine. It became a member of the Atlantic Alliance last year, much to the chagrin of Russia, which promised to respond with “countermeasures”.
At the end of August, Finland faced an influx of migrants on its eastern border, accusing Moscow of orchestrating a migration crisis on its doorstep. Helsinki closed its border with its neighbor in November, a measure supported by all the candidates.
Strengthening of sanctions
“The fact that we have just joined NATO is of considerable importance”, because how it will be deployed in Finland “will largely be a task for the new president”, notes Theodora Helimaki, political science researcher at the University of Helsinki.
Alexander Stubb and Pekka Haavisto, both former foreign ministers, share the same vision on the position to adopt towards Russia with a strengthening of sanctions against Moscow.
“The international political situation is very difficult for us at the moment and I think we really need a president who can work with the different political parties and who can negotiate,” one voter, Maarit Tarkiainen, told AFP. , 46-year-old doctor.
In 2022, the outgoing president, Sauli Niinistö, elected in 2012 and reputed to be the current European leader to have spoken most regularly with Vladimir Putin, contacted him directly to announce the decision to join NATO.
Since then, there has been radio silence and neither candidate expects a phone call from the Kremlin after the election.
“I want [the next president] to be as good as his predecessor,” said capital resident Joakim Björnström, 36.
The difference between the candidates, both liberals, comes down in particular to the question of the storage and transport of nuclear weapons in Finland.
Pekka Haavisto does not want to authorize them, although as a member of NATO, the Nordic country must participate in exercises relating to the Alliance's nuclear policy.
Mr. Stubb, for his part, said that the country should not exclude “any part” of NATO's nuclear deterrence policy.