Center-right Stubb wins hard-fought Finnish presidential election By Reuters


©Reuters. NCP presidential candidate Alexander Stubb campaigns in Helsinki, Finland, January 11, 2024. Newspaper photo/Vesa Moilanen via REUTERS


By Anne Kauranen and Essi Lehto

HELSINKI (Reuters) -Alexander Stubb of the centre-right National Coalition Party narrowly won Finland’s presidential election on Sunday, defeating liberal Green Party member Pekka Haavisto, who conceded defeat.

Stubb is pro-European and a strong supporter of Ukraine who has taken a tough stance on Russia.

He declared himself the winner in the runoff after securing 51.6% of the vote as 99.7% of ballots had been counted, versus Haavisto’s 48.4%, Justice Ministry data shows.

Finland’s new head of state will be responsible for its foreign and security policy, including the NATO member’s recently approved stance towards Russia, with which it shares a long border.

In a televised speech Stubb called his victory “the greatest honor” of his life.

“The feeling is calm, humble but of course at the same time I am extremely happy and grateful that Finns voted in such large numbers and that I can serve as president of the Republic of Finland,” he said.

Stubb, a former prime minister, had won the first round on January 28 with 27.2% of the votes ahead of Haavisto with 25.8%. He also led Haavisto in opinion polls, most recently by 6-8 percentage points.

He congratulated Stubb as “the thirteenth president of Finland”

“I believe Finland now has a good president for the republic. Alexander Stubb is an experienced and competent person for the job. Enough talk,” he said.

The vote marks a new era for Finland, which for decades has elected presidents to promote diplomacy, particularly with neighboring Russia, and has chosen not to join military alliances in order to ease tensions between Moscow and NATO.

But the Finns changed their minds after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, in a rapid U-turn that led to the country joining NATO in April last year.

Now under the Western alliance’s security umbrella, Stubb will replace Sauli Niinisto, who is retiring after two six-year terms in which he earned the nickname “Putin whisperer” for his previous close ties to the Russian leader .

Stubb will have a central role in shaping Finland’s NATO policies, while taking the lead on overall foreign and security policy in close cooperation with the government and acting as commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

“Close congratulations to Alexander Stubb. Finland is our dear friend and partner,” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said in a post on X.


Lauri, a 36-year-old computer scientist who voted in Helsinki, pointed to Russia as the main task facing the new president.

“Obviously we all know that we’re in a difficult position nowadays looking at Russia, at the whole turbulence in the world today. So I think that’s the biggest threat and the biggest problem that we have,” he told Reuters on Saturday.

In an interview with Reuters last month, Stubb said there would be no Russian pillar in Finnish foreign policy for now:

“Politically there will be no dealings with the president of Russia or the Russian political leadership until they stop the war in Ukraine.”

Stubb favors deep NATO cooperation, such as allowing the transportation of nuclear weapons across Finnish soil and permanently stationing some NATO troops in Finland. However, he is not in favor of storing nuclear weapons in Finland.

“Sometimes a nuclear weapon is a guarantee of peace,” Stubb said in a debate Tuesday.

Russia has threatened Finland with retaliation in response to its NATO membership and defense cooperation agreement signed with the United States in December.

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