Stubb narrowly wins first round of Finland's presidential election | Election news

Former Prime Minister Alexander Stubb and former Foreign Minister Beka Havisto will meet in the second round on February 11.

Alexander Stubb of Finland's center-right National Alliance party has won the first round of the country's presidential election and will face Bekka Haavisto of the liberal Green Party in two weeks.

With all votes counted in Sunday's election, Stubb won 27.2 percent, Havisto 25.8 percent and nationalist Jussi Halla-Aho 19 percent. Voter turnout was 71.5 percent.

The finals for the top two places will be held on February 11.

Finland is electing a new president to lead the country in its new role within NATO, breaking decades of non-alignment to join the Western security alliance in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

“You know what, we've made it to the final, but the competition is just beginning,” former prime minister Stubb told his supporters.

His opponent in the second round was the former Foreign Minister HavistoA human rights defender, he has also worked as a peace negotiator.

Havisto would be Finland's first openly gay president if elected.

“Our task now is to reach out to those who did not have a candidate in the second round,” Havisto said in a speech to his supporters.

Social Movement presidential candidate Bekka Havisto attends her election reception in Helsinki, Finland [Lehtikuva/Antti Aimo-Koivisto via Reuters]

War in Ukraine

The role of the President of Finland includes leading foreign and security policy in close cooperation with the government, representing the country at NATO meetings, and acting as the Commander-in-Chief of the Finnish Defense Forces.

All three leading candidates are supporters of Ukraine and have called for tougher measures against Russia.

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“Looking at the two who will go to the next round, they may have experience in foreign policy,” Hanna Ojanen, director of political research at the University of Tampere, told the AFP news agency after the results became clear.

During their election campaigns, both Stubb and Havisto moved toward political neutrality, while Halla-Aho maintained his right-wing conservative profile.

For many Finns, the nationalist Halla-Aho is a divisive figure who attracts both loyal supporters and fierce opponents.

In Helsinki, 26-year-old Lena Poksha, an early voter, told Reuters news agency that voting in the election was especially important because of the war in Ukraine and the difficult situation it has created.

Stubb, a cosmopolitan pro-European, was seen by Finns as the right person to lead the country's foreign policy at this time, Pokshaw said.

“I voted for Alexander Stubb because I think he is very good at dealing with other countries and he has good relations with people outside of Finland,” said Poksha, who went out with a friend and her child to vote on Sunday.

Jere Markkinen, a 22-year-old mechanical engineering student, took a different view.

“I don't think he is [Stubb] He will be a good president because he doesn't seem like he wants to represent the people, he wants to represent himself,” Markkinen told Reuters, who voted early for Haavisto.

“He's experienced in foreign politics and has a reputation for being generally smart, unlike some of the other candidates.”

The country needs a president with “leadership” and “humanity,” voter Hannu Kusiti told AFP.

“Of course, he has to be tough when needed,” he added.

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Finland's accession to NATO last year drew threats of “countermeasures” from Russia, with which Finland shares its full 1,340-kilometer (830 miles) land border.

In December, Finland closed its border with Russia. Moscow has denied Finnish accusations that it is sending migrants there.

The Finnish border serves as the external EU border in the east, and marks the north-eastern flank of NATO.

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The new Finnish president will replace 75-year-old Sauli Niinisto, who is due to step down after two six-year terms.

He earned the nickname “Putin's Whisperer” during his tenure, for his role in maintaining close ties with Russia, long a key role for Finnish presidents.

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