The conservative Stubb and the environmentalist Haavisto move into the second round of the presidential elections in Finland

Finland, the only Nordic country other than Iceland to have a republic as its system of government, went to the polls this Sunday to elect its first president after its historic accession to NATO last April. Foreign and security policy is the main power retained by the Finnish head of state following the constitutional reforms of 2000 and 2012.

However, according to public television Yle, none of the eleven candidates will reach 50% of the sufficient votes as almost 99% of the ballots have been counted, so we will have to wait for the second candidate on February 11 to meet the successor Sauli Niinistöwho has completed the two six-year terms for which he could run.

As all the polls expected, the former Conservative Prime Minister Alexander StubbThe 55-year-old received the most votes with 27.1% of the vote. Environmentalists follow closely behind with 25.7% of the vote Pekka Haavistowho, as foreign minister in the government of social democrat Sanna Marin, played a key role in the negotiations for Finland’s accession to NATO.

Haavisto, 65, is running as an independent candidate and is running in presidential elections for the third time, having come second to Niinistö on the previous two occasions. If he wins within two weeks, he would be Finland’s first environmentalist and gay president.

In third place is the candidate of the right-wing extremist party True Finns and current president of “Eduskunta” (parliament), Jussi Halla Ahowith 19%, one point less than what his party achieved in the April general election.

In fourth place with 15.4% is the former EU Economic Commissioner and current Governor of the Bank of Finland, Olli Rehnwho is also running as an independent, although he belongs to the liberal Center Party, which is currently in opposition after the debacle of the last general election.

The candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Jutta Urpilainen, who temporarily left her post as European Commissioner for International Associations to run in the presidential election, barely managed 5% of the vote, a quarter of what her party added last April, when it was just two MPs behind the Conservatives and one of them the extreme right had. Since then, the SDP has not held the presidency of Finland Tarja Halonen (2000-2012)

“That was the semi-final. Tomorrow it starts again.”explained Stubb when he learned of the result, which his rival nevertheless described as “fantastic” and which paved the way to a second round that looked “very promising”.

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The second round on March 11th is closer than expected a few weeks ago. The unions’ strike call against the labor reforms of the right-wing government of conservative Prime Minister Petteri Orpo is also likely to harm the expectations of his party colleague Stubb.

These elections are characterized by a high proportion of early voting. In total, 1.88 million Finns, or 44% of the census, did not wait until this Sunday.

The future Finnish president will have to face an unpredictable international scenario after the Russian invasion of Ukraine two years ago. A war of aggression that forced Finland to make a 180-degree turn in its traditional policy of military non-alignment to knock on the doors of NATO, which it achieved in less than a year, overtaking its neighbor Sweden, with whom it shares its official The country applied for membership in NATO in May 2022. “Security is an existential issue for Finland, although we all pretty much agree on the overall vision,” emphasized Stubb.

With a 1,340-kilometer border with Russia, the Nordic country remains on alert against the “hybrid war” started by its neighbor, which favored the arrival of asylum seekers last fall, just as Belarus did with Poland in 2021 due to the borders that also include those of the EU and NATO, Helsinki has closed all border crossings with Russia since November 30th.

The explosion of the Nordstream gas pipeline, the mysterious rupture of the Balticconnector gas pipeline connecting Finland and Estonia and the collapse of the undersea telecommunications cable crossing the Gulf of Finland, as well as several cyberattacks, keep Finnish authorities on guard against the permanent Russian threat.

As a full member of the Atlantic Alliance, Finland still needs to clarify important aspects of its membership. First, decide on the presence of US soldiers and military bases on its territory, which could provoke the anger of Moscow, which has repeatedly threatened to respond to its neighbor’s accession to NATO. Secondly, the installation of nuclear weapons in Finland is controversial as the legislation expressly prohibits them. Iceland and Denmark, members of NATO since 1949, have a clause that excludes them from stockpiling these substances.

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