Against a backdrop of worsening tensions with neighboring Russia due to the war in Ukraine, Finnish voters are called to the polls this Sunday.
Finns vote on Sunday to elect their president, whose role has increased since joining NATO last year and worsening tensions with neighboring Russia due to the war in Ukraine. Some 4.3 million voters must choose between the former conservative Prime Minister, Alexander Stubb, who came first in the first round on January 28 with 27.2% of the vote, and the former head of diplomacy, Pekka Haavisto , member of the Greens but who is running as an independent (25.8%).
Endowed with limited powers compared to the Prime Minister, the head of state, elected for six years, nevertheless directs the country’s foreign policy in close cooperation with the government. He is also supreme commander of the armed forces. A notable role which has become even more important due to geopolitical developments in Europe and the entry into NATO of Finland, which shares 1,340 kilometers of border with Russia.
Neutral during the Cold War, the Nordic country ended three decades of military non-alignment after the invasion of Ukraine. It became a member of the Atlantic Alliance last year, to the great dismay of Russia, which promised to respond with “countermeasures”. At the end of August, Finland faced an influx of migrants on its eastern border, accusing Moscow of orchestrating a migration crisis on its doorstep. Helsinki closed its border with its neighbor in November, a measure supported by all the candidates.
A poll carried out by public television Yle on Thursday credits Alexander Stubb with 54% of voting intentions against 46% for Pekka Haavisto. The two former foreign ministers share the same vision on the position to adopt towards Russia with a strengthening of sanctions against Moscow.
Pekka Haavisto said during a televised debate on Thursday evening that “the‘European Union could do much more to help Ukraine’, while for Alexander Stubb, ‘Ukraine’s path is our path, and right now they are fighting for the freedom of Europeans’.
In 2022, the outgoing president, Sauli Niinistö, elected in 2012 and reputed to be the current European leader to have spoken most regularly with Vladimir Putin, had directly contacted the head of the Kremlin to announce the decision to join the ‘NATO. Since then, there has been radio silence and neither candidate expects a phone call from the Kremlin after the election.