HELSINKI - Former conservative prime minister Alexander Stubb won Sunday’s Finnish presidential election, assuming a role that has gained importance in light of the country’s NATO membership and rising tensions with neighbouring Russia.
Some 4.3 million voters were choosing between Stubb and former foreign minister Pekka Haavisto, a Green Party MP running as an independent. “Well, Alexander. Congratulations to Finland’s 13th president,” Haavisto told Stubb on live television, as he conceded after broadcaster Yle projected that Stubb had won with 51.4 percent.
When all votes were counted, the final tally gave Stubb 51.6 percent of the vote. Stubb, who called the win “the greatest honour of my life,” will assume office on March 1. The changing geopolitical landscape in Europe will be the main challenge for the new head of state, who -- while having limited powers compared to the prime minister -- guides the country’s foreign policy together with the government and acts as supreme commander of Finland’s armed forces.
“It is absolutely incredible that a country the size of Finland can have such a fair and honest election in this security policy context,” Stubb declared in a victory speech to supporters. Relations between Moscow and Helsinki deteriorated following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, prompting Finland to drop decades of military non-alignment and join NATO in April 2023. Russia, with whom Finland shares a 1,340-kilometre (830-mile) border, swiftly warned of “countermeasures”.