Finland elects a new president amid a change of era marked by joining NATO

A man looks at campaign posters to vote in the Finnish presidential election in Helsinki, Finland. Europa Press/Contact/Chen Jing (Europa Press/Contact/Chen Jing/)

The Finnish population is called to the polls this Sunday to vote in a presidential election in which the current head of state does not participate, Sauli Niinistoafter exceeding the term limit and that will end up marking a change of course in the Nordic country after its entry into the NATO in April of last year.

The President of Finland, in charge of directing foreign and security policies, also serves as commander in chief of the Finnish Defense Forces. In the context of the war in Eastern Europe, the new head of state will face an anomalous context for the Nordic country.

With the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Finland began the path towards joining the Atlantic Alliance, thus abandoning a historical neutrality at the international level that had led the nation to opt neither for Russia nor for the allied bloc.

Although Finland received the approval of the vast majority of NATO members from almost the first moment, Türkiye and Hungary They put obstacles to his entry into the bloc, although this refusal had more to do with Sweden, who was initially his traveling companion although they finally separated their paths so that in April Helsinki became ally number 31.

Among the main candidates for the Presidency, he stands out above the rest Alexander Stubbgovernment candidate National Coalition Party and known for his pro-European positions. Stubb briefly served as Prime Minister between June 2014 and May 2015 and then held the Ministry of Finance for just over a year.

The presidential candidate of the National Coalition, Alexander Stubb.  Lehtikuva/Vesa Moilanen via REUTERS
The presidential candidate of the National Coalition, Alexander Stubb. Lehtikuva/Vesa Moilanen via REUTERS (LEHTIKUVA/)

Previously, he was a member of the European Parliament (2004-2009) and then led Finnish diplomacy. Polls place Stubb as one of the main favorites to succeed Niinisto, although it is true that he has not come out well in the recent debates and his popularity has suffered.

Along with former prime minister Stubb is also emerging as a favorite Pekka Haavistomember of The Greens, although he is running as an independent candidate. He began his parliamentary career in 1987 until 1995, when he left national politics for a long period of twelve years to return in 2007.

The former United Nations diplomat also ran for president in 2012 and 2018, coming in second place after Niinisto on both occasions. In case of triumph in Sunday’s elections He would become the first openly gay Finnish president.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto.  Lehtikuva/Seppo Samuli via REUTERS
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto. Lehtikuva/Seppo Samuli via REUTERS (LEHTIKUVA/)

Haavisto stands out for having held the position of Foreign Minister from 2019 to 2023, a period in which he faced a vote of confidence due to the controversial repatriation of Finnish relatives of combatants. Islamic State from the refugee camp Al HolIn Syria.

Although Stubb and Haavisto were initially seen as the two main candidates to succeed Niinisto, the ultranationalist leader Jussi Halla-aho has been able to take advantage of the drop in popularity of his rivals to now position himself as a more than feasible alternative.

Considered one of the main figures of the Finnish Partyhas held the position since last June Presidency of Parliament. Halla-aho defends positions openly contrary to European Union and against immigration. Racist comments earned him a fine from the Finnish Supreme Court in 2012.


In principle, according to the polls, Niinisto’s successor should come from this shortlist of candidates, who stand out among the nine candidates running for the elections.

Among the rest of the candidates is that of the director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Mika Aaltola, who runs as an independent after gaining notoriety for his analyzes of the Ukraine war. He advocates an increase in the defense budget and advocates that Finland stockpile American weapons for strategic purposes.

Mika Aaltola, head of a Finnish foreign affairs think tank, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Helsinki, Finland.  REUTERS/Essi Lehto
Mika Aaltola, director of a Finnish foreign affairs think tank, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Helsinki, Finland. REUTERS/Essi Lehto (STAFF/)

The leader of the Left Alliance, Li Andersson, could also surprise thanks to the popularity she gained during her career as a cabinet minister of the former prime minister. Sanna Marin. The Christian Democrats, for their part, present Sari Essayah, current Minister of Agriculture and former candidate in 2012, when she barely achieved 2.5 percent of the votes.

On the other hand, the reviled Finnish social democracy presents Jutta Urpilainen as a candidate for the Head of State. The Social Democratic Party managed to govern the country during Marin’s mandate, although in the last local elections in 2019 it was surpassed by the National Coalition Partyand in the last parliamentary elections it came in third place behind even the extreme right.

The other two remaining candidates are the governor of the Bank of Finland and independent candidate although with support from the Center Party, Olli Rehn; and the businessman and founder of Movement Now, Harry Harkimowho stands out for his liberal positions focused on the individual over the State.

The polling stations will open on Sunday at 9:00 a.m. and close at 8:00 p.m., although it is estimated that voting by mail may exceed 50 percent of the total votes cast, as happened in 2018. Although early results may be known shortly after After the polls close, an official result is not expected until Tuesday.

If any of the candidates manages to gather more than half of the votes, they will be able to succeed Niinisto as of February 1. If, on the other hand, no candidate achieves an absolute majority, a second round will be held on February 11, and the inauguration will be held in early May.

(With information from Europa Press)