New NATO member Finland is electing a president who will maintain his hard line towards neighboring Russia

Stubb succeeds the hugely popular President Sauli Niinistö, whose second six-year term expires next month and who was not eligible for re-election.

A runoff election was required after none of the original nine candidates received a majority of votes in the first round on January 28. In the tradition of consensus-oriented Finnish politics and without hidden attacks during the election campaign, Stubb attended Haavisto’s election party event late Sunday after the result was clear.

“You are one of the nicest people I have ever met,” Stubb told his opponent Haavisto at the party event, as Finnish broadcaster YLE reported.

The presidency is a key political position in the northern European country of 5.6 million people. Unlike most European countries, the Finnish president has executive power to formulate foreign and security policy together with the government.

But he is also expected to stay above the everyday political fray, stay out of domestic political disputes and at the same time act as the nation’s moral leader.

The head of state also commands the military – a key role after Finland joined NATO in April 2023 following Russia’s attack on Ukraine a year earlier. Finnish media pointed out on Monday that Europe’s security is at stake from Russia’s invasion like never before since World War II.

At a news conference in Helsinki, Stubb was asked by The Associated Press to assess the situation in the Finnish military and whether he intended to become a hands-on commander.

“We have one of the strongest armed forces in Europe,” Stubb replied. He pointed to Finland’s military strength during the war of 280,000 reservists – a figure augmented by about 900,000 men and women who received military training through military service.

“When the Cold War ended, Finland did not reduce its military – quite the opposite,” Stubb said, referring to the modern state of the country’s defense forces.

“We will play our role in the alliance (NATO). People trust us and know we are serious about our defense for pretty obvious reasons. Will I be an active commander in chief? Yes, I plan to do that.” he said.

Doubts also remain in Finland and elsewhere in Europe about the United States’ future involvement in NATO – doubts that former President Donald Trump appeared to revive over the weekend as the front-runner for the Republican nomination sharpened his attacks on foreign aid and long-term aid . permanent international alliances.

“Stubb will be a president in difficult times, possibly even a wartime president,” Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat said in an editorial.

Stubb, 55, who was prime minister from 2014 to 2015 and began his political career as a member of the European Parliament in 2004, will become Finland’s 13th president since its independence from the Russian Empire in 1917.

Stubb later briefly served as finance minister before retiring from Finnish politics entirely in 2017. He was also previously Foreign Minister and Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade. He received his doctorate in international relations from the London School of Economics and has been working as a professor at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy since 2020.

During his campaign, Stubb said Finland’s priorities included maintaining a hard line against Moscow and Russia’s current leadership, strengthening security ties with Washington and the need to help Ukraine both militarily and at the civilian level.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was among the first foreign dignitaries to offer Stubb “sincere congratulations.” The war in Ukraine has deeply affected citizens of Finland, which shares a 1,340-kilometer (832-mile) border with Russia.

Zelensky said in a message on X, formerly Twitter, that “Ukraine and Finland, in solidarity with other partners, strengthen the security of all of Europe and every nation on our continent.” and well-defended Europe.”

Voter turnout in the runoff was reported at 70.7%, compared to 75% in the first round.


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Amanda Walker

Global events enthusiast. Reporting with a critical lens to offer readers a deeper perspective.

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