Former Conservative Prime Minister Alexander Stubb won the presidential election on Sunday. Finlandaccording to official results, in elections marked by tensions with Russia since the country’s accession to NATO.
After the closing of the polling stations at 8:00 p.m. (6:00 p.m. GMT) and the counting of 96% of the votes, the official results gave 51.7% of the votes to the former prime minister and 48.3% to his rival Pekka. Haavisto.
“Alexander, congratulations to the 13th president of Finland“said Haavisto, a member of the Green party but who ran as an independent candidate, in statements to the Yle network, after the results were published.
“The only thing I can think about now is gratitude. It is a great victory for democracy in Finland“I am very proud of all the Finns who voted,” Stubb had reacted when the first provisional results were published.
The head of state, with fewer powers than the prime minister, is elected for a six-year term and directs the country’s foreign policy in close collaboration with the government. He is also supreme commander of the Armed Forces.
Its role has grown in importance since the war in Ukraine and the entry of Finland to NATO, to which Russia promised to respond with “countermeasures.”
The northern European country, which shares 1,340 km of borders with Russia, remained neutral during the Cold War and has been a staunch defender of dialogue between Western countries and Russia.
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But following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the country ended three decades of military non-alignment.
In August, Finland accused Moscow of orchestrating a migration crisis on its borders. As a result, he decided to close his border with Russia in November, a move supported by both candidates.
– Reinforcement of sanctions –
“The fact that we have just joined NATO is of considerable importance,” analyzes Theodora Helimaki, a political science researcher at the University of Helsinki.
The new president, he notes, will be “largely” responsible for the way the alliance will be deployed in the country.
About 4.3 million voters had to choose between Alexander Stubb and Pekka Haavisto. Both served as former Foreign Ministers and share the same vision on the stance to adopt towards Russia, with a reinforcement of sanctions.
“The international political situation is very complicated for us at the moment, I think we really need a president who can work with the different political parties and who can negotiate,” one voter, Maarit Tarkiainen, a 46-year-old doctor, told AFP.
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In 2022, the outgoing president, Sauli Niinistö, elected in 2012 and considered the active European leader who spoke the most with Vladimir Putin, directly communicated his decision to join NATO.
Since then silence has reigned and none of the candidates expect a call from the Kremlin after the elections.
The difference between the current candidates lies in nuances, according to researcher Theodora Helimäki, who cites the issue of the storage and transportation of nuclear weapons in Finland.
While Haavisto does not want to authorize them, Stubb believes that the country should not exclude “any part” of the alliance’s nuclear deterrence policy.