Former PM Alexander Stubb wins Finnish presidency, narrowly defeating ex-top diplomat Pekka Haavisto

National Coalition Party candidate Alexander Stubb, left, and Social Movement candidate Pekka Haavisto attend a Presidential election event, at the Helsinki City Hall, in Helsinki, Finland, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. Alexander Stubb is projected to win Finland’s presidential election runoff on Sunday against the former Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

HELSINKI — Former Prime Minister Alexander Stubb won Finland’s election runoff Sunday against ex-Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto in a close race for the presidency and the task of steering the Nordic country’s foreign and security policy now that it is a member of NATO, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

With all votes counted, center-right candidate Stubb of the National Coalition Party had 51.6% of the votes, while independent candidate Haavisto from the green left got 48.4% of the votes.


The 55-year-old Stubb, who was prime minister in 2014-2015 and started his political career as a lawmaker at the European Parliament in 2004, will become the 13th president of Finland since the Nordic country’s independence from the Russian empire in 1917.

Haavisto conceded defeat after a projection by the Finnish public broadcaster YLE showing a win for Stubb was released Sunday night. He shook Stubb’s hand and congratulated him at Helsinki City Hall, where the candidates and the media were watching the results come in.

The months’ long election campaign was polite and non-confrontational in line with consensus-driven Finnish politics with no below-the-belt attacks from any of the candidates – something that Stubb noted in his speech to Haavisto.

“This has been a fair, great race,” Stubb told Haavisto after the result was clear. “I’m proud that I have been able to run with you in these elections. Thanks for a good race.”

Stubb and Haavisto, 65, were the main contenders in the election where over 4 million eligible voters picked a successor to hugely popular President Sauli Niinistö, whose second six-year term expires in March. He wasn’t eligible for reelection.

Sunday’s runoff was required because none of the original nine candidates got more than half of the votes in Jan. 28 first round. Stubb emerged at the top with 27.3%, with Haavisto the runner-up on 25.8%.

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