Former Prime Minister Alexander Stubb and former Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto will meet in a second round on February 11.
Alexander Stubbe of Finland’s center-right National Union Party won the first round of the presidential election and will face Pekka Haavisto of the liberal Green Party in a runoff two weeks later.
When all the votes from Sunday’s election were counted, Mr. Stubbe was in second place with 27.2%, followed by Mr. Haavisto with 25.8%, with nationalist Jussi Halaaho in third place with 19%. Voter turnout was 71.5%.
The top two will compete in the finals on February 11th.
Finland is electing a new president to take on a new role within NATO after ending decades of non-alignment and joining the Western defense alliance following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Stubb, a former prime minister, told supporters: “As you know, we have made it to the final, but the competition begins now.”
Second round rival, former foreign minister HarvistHe is a human rights activist who also worked as a peace negotiator.
If elected, Haavisto will become Finland’s first openly gay president.
“Our task now is to reach out to those whose candidates did not make it to the second round,” Haavisto said in a speech to supporters.
war in ukraine
The role of the President of Finland requires working closely with the government to lead foreign and security policy, representing the country at NATO meetings, and serving as the Supreme Commander of the Finnish Defense Forces.
All three leading candidates were supporters of Ukraine and called for tough measures against Russia.
“Looking at the two people who made it to the next round, foreign policy experience might be what people were looking for,” Hanna Ojanen, head of political science research at Tampere University, told AFP when the results were revealed. told the news agency.
During the campaign, both Mr. Stubbe and Mr. Haavisto pivoted to political centrist positions, while Mr. Halaaho remained on the right-wing conservative side.
For many Finns, the nationalist Halaaho is a divisive figure who attracts both loyal supporters and staunch opponents.
One early voter in Helsinki, Lina Bokša, 26, told Reuters that voting in the election was especially important because of the war in Ukraine and the difficult situation it had created.
Boksha said Stubb, who is seen by Finns as a cosmopolitan and pro-European man, is the right person to lead the country’s foreign policy at this time.
“I voted for Alexander Stubbe because I think he is very good at dealing with other countries and has good relationships with people outside of Finland,” she told a friend who was going to vote on Sunday. said Boksha, who had gone out with her baby to accompany her.
Jere Markkinen, a 22-year-old mechanical engineering student, took a different view.
“He doesn’t think so.” [Stubb] Markkinen told Reuters he would make a very good president, adding that he had voted for Haavisto in advance, as he seemed to want to represent himself rather than the people.
“He has experience in foreign politics and is known for generally acting smartly, unlike other candidates.”
Voter Hannu Kushti told AFP the country needed a president with “leadership” and “humanity”.
“Of course you have to be tough when you need to be,” he added.
Finland’s entry into NATO last year led to threats of “countermeasures” from Russia, with which it shares the entire 1,340km (830 miles) land border.
Finland closed its border with Russia in December in response to a surge in migrants attempting to cross. Moscow denied Finland’s claims that it was sending migrants.
The Finnish border serves as the outer border of the European Union to the east and represents the northeastern flank of NATO.
Finland’s new president will replace the 75-year-old incumbent Sauli Niinisto, who will have to step down after two six-year terms.
During his tenure, he earned the nickname “Putin’s Whisperer” for his role in maintaining close ties with Russia, which has long been an important role for Finland’s president.