Stubb, Haavisto Advance to Finland’s Presidential Ballot Round

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Stubb and Haavisto Advance to Finland’s Presidential Run-Off Vote

According to our sources, Alexander Stubb and Pekka Haavisto gained the most votes on January 28, securing their spots in the second round of Finland’s presidential election. This decision-making process comes amid strained ties with neighboring Russia.

Election Results and Expectations

Based on official counts, Alexander Stubb, a former prime minister and conservative politician, won 27.2% of the votes. His competitor, independent candidate and Green Party member, Pekka Haavisto, who previously served as the foreign minister, secured 25.8%. Around 71.5% of voters participated in this election phase.

The candidates will compete in the runoff election previously scheduled on February 11.

“No matter who I’d face in the second round, I know we’ll have a constructive, civilized and good discussion about difficult foreign policy questions,” said Mr. Stubb.

Presidential Role and Duties

Despite the president’s restricted powers, the winner will play a crucial role in shaping foreign policy with the government. Given the evolving geopolitical climate in Europe, this responsibility will be a chief concern for the elected president.

“Experience in foreign policy could be what people were looking for, looking at the two who will go to the next round,” remarked Hanna Ojanen, research director of politics at Tampere University.

During the lead-up to the vote, many analysts predicted the far-right Finns Party candidate, Jussi Halla-aho, might make it to the second round. He, however, ended up in third place securing 19% of the vote.

Tensions with Russia

Relations between Finland and Russia have deteriorated after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, which led to Finland abandoning its long-standing military non-alignment to join NATO in April 2023. Finland, sharing an extensive 1,340-kilometre border with Russia, faced a warning of ‘countermeasures’ soon after their NATO alliance.

By August 2023, an influx of visa-free migrants crossing through the eastern border of Finland became noticeable. Helsinki claimed a hybrid attack from Moscow intending to destabilize it using these migrants. As a result, Finland shut its eastern border in November.

Mr. Stubb expressed concern over the issue, stating, “We are in a situation now where Russia and especially Vladimir Putin is using humans as a weapon… And in that case, we have to put Finland’s security first.”

Mr. Haavisto echoed these concerns, asserting that Finland needed to send a “very clear message that this can’t go on.”

In contrast to current times, Finland maintained amicable relations with Russia in the post-Cold War era. Sauli Niinisto, the incumbent President stepping down after two six-year terms, was known for his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Presidential Candidates’ Standpoints

The presidential candidates are advocating for Finland’s independence and its new role as a NATO member. They are emphasizing self-sufficiency and being active contributors to a shared European defense and Nordic cooperation.

However, the similarities in candidates’ stances may cause voters to focus more on their individual personalities, according to Foreign Policy Professor Tuomas Forsberg. “This will be more about electing an individual, where you look at the person’s credibility and reliability and perceived qualities as a leader of foreign policy,” he adds.

While both candidates have similar political views, they represent different backgrounds. Alexander Stubb, a representative of the right, and Pekka Haavisto, representative of the left, will now face each other in the second round of voting.

Looking Ahead

“The differences will become clear as the campaign progresses,” Haavisto commented on his upcoming battle with Stubb. Observers wait with anticipation as the countdown to Finland’s presidential run-off vote begins.


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