Finnish centre-right candidate Alexander Stubb declared himself the winner of the presidency with approximately 52% of the vote

Finns went to the polls on Sunday to cast their ballots for president, and after a close race, former Prime Minister Alexander Stubb of the center-right National Coalition party narrowly ousted liberal Green Party member Pekka Haavisto.

Reuters reported that Stubb, the former prime minister, declared himself the winner in the run-off after obtaining 51.6% of the votes compared to 48.4% for Haavisto, after 99.7% of the votes were counted.

As president, Finland's new head of state will take charge of issues such as the country's security and foreign policy, as well as its attitude towards Russia, with which it shares a border.

Staub is pro-European and has strongly supported Ukraine while taking a hard line against Russia.

Presidential candidates in Finland are vying to shape the country's foreign and security policies with regard to Russia

National Coalition Party (NCP) presidential candidate Alexander Stubb reacts at the election reception held in Helsinki, Finland, on February 11, 2024. Finns cast their votes on Sunday in the presidential election with two experienced politicians facing the role that has gained importance in light of the membership of The country is in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and tensions are rising with neighboring Russia. (Photo by Emi Korhonen/Lehtikova/AFP via Getty Images)

The presidential winner said in televised statements that he considered his victory “the greatest honor” of his life.

“The feeling is quiet and humble, but of course at the same time, I am very happy and grateful that Finns voted in such large numbers and that I will be president of the Republic of Finland,” Stubb said.

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Finland headed to a runoff in the presidential election after Staub won the first round with 27.2% of the vote, as was widely expected.

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Head of Finnish Policy Staab

National Coalition Party (NCP) presidential candidate Alexander Stubb (L) and Green Party-backed candidate for the Non-Partisan Electoral Assembly Pekka Haavisto interact during an election night event at Helsinki City Hall in Helsinki, Finland, on February 11, 2024. (Photo by Heikki Sukuma/Lehticova/AFP via Getty Images)

The President of Finland has executive power to formulate foreign and security policy, while also commanding the military. The president keeps himself largely out of domestic politics.

Stapp is described as a liberal conservative, compared to Haavisto, an environmental activist with center-left views. However, both candidates have taken similar positions when it comes to foreign policy issues, including Russia and aid to Ukraine.

Haavisto congratulated his rival on Sunday, calling Stubbs “the 13th president of Finland.”

Finland is preparing for a runoff in the presidential elections with the participation of the former prime minister and former chief diplomat

Hugs Stop

National Coalition Party (NCP) presidential candidate Alexander Stubb (CR) and Finnish Prime Minister Petri Örpo (CL) embrace after the advance voting results are revealed at his election reception in Helsinki, Finland, on February 11, 2024. (Photo by Emi Korhonen/Lehtikova/AFP via Getty Images)

“I think Finland now has a good president,” he said. “Alexander Stubb is an experienced and competent person for the job. No more gossip.”

The election results mark a new era for Finland, after decades of electing presidents who promoted diplomacy with Russia and chose not to participate in military alliances so they could calm tensions between NATO and Russia.

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After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, the country changed its position and joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in April 2023.

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Stubb will replace Sauli Niinistö, who will retire after two six-year terms.

Niinistö was nicknamed “Putin's whisperer” because of his close relationship with the Russian leader.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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