Center-Right Victory at the Finnish Elections


With the current president, Sauli Niinisto, reaching the end of his two six-year terms, Finns took to the polls to decide on his successor. Two voting periods took place, yielding very close but similar results. In the end, Alexander Stubb’s center-right National Coalition Party was victorious over the center-left Green Party, headed by Pekka Haavisto with a result of 51.6% compared to 48.4%. 

After the projection of the results was broadcast on Finnish television, Haavisto conceded the race and congratulated Stubb for winning. Both candidates expressed mutual respect and appreciation for the race they took part in. Stubb stated during a debate that “however this election goes, it will be good for Finland.”

Stubb began his political career in the European Parliament in 2004 as a lawmaker. Four years later, he was appointed as Finland’s prime minister. During his time in government, he received some criticism for statements he made, considered rash and insensitive in his interactions with other officials. After losing the parliamentary elections in 2015, he served as minister of finance for two years before leaving Finnish politics and promising not to return. However, he claims that it was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that convinced him to come back and help navigate his country through the issue. According to observers, he displayed himself more calmly and thoughtfully this time around, evidently gaining the confidence of the majority. Although mentioning the war as his motivation to come back to the political scene, he loosened his stance following the election, prioritizing a state of peace.

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Party division in Finland’s Parliament following the 2023 parliamentary elections. The soon-to-be President comes from the majority party – the National Coalition – with 48 seats. 

The candidates share very similar viewpoints on the majority of issues Finland is faced with, including the country’s cooperation with NATO and the war in Ukraine. The nation’s political landscape has been significantly altered following its accession to the alliance, breaking its long-standing policy of military neutrality that it undertook to ease relations with Russia. Over his twelve-year period in power, Niinisto prioritized that, earning the nickname “the Putin whisperer” due to his close ties with Moscow. It was Niinisto, however, who ultimately steered the country into NATO membership in April 2023. Stubb has stated that diplomatic relations with Russia will not be established until the war is over. Still, the Kremlin has expressed hopes that Finland will maintain a neutral attitude toward its Eastern neighbor.

Despite the shared ambition to work with the alliance, Stubb and Haavisto differ on the degree of cooperation that each deems necessary. The former supports thorough integration, offering the alliance the option to station permanent troops in the country and even to transport nuclear weaponry freely. Haavisto does not have an equally radical view on the topic, labeling such extreme NATO involvement inside Finland’s borders as “unnecessary.”

It is a delicate matter for a country that is in such proximity to Russia, sharing a 1,340-kilometer border with NATO’s main adversary. The alliance’s further expansion to the east, once again going back on the supposed spoken agreement with Russia established in 1990, has the potential to further light the powder keg of Eastern Europe. Moscow has repeatedly called on the promises Western leaders made following the reunification of Germany that wrote off NATO moving an “inch to the east,” but the lack of those words’ contractual bindingness has been used to justify transgressions since.

Alexander Stubb has described winning the elections as the “greatest honor of my life.” He will regardless be faced with many crucial challenges shortly, and as the president of Finland, albeit a parliamentary democracy, he also assumes the responsibility of the nation’s foreign and security policy, as well as the role of commander-in-chief of its armed forces. March 1st, when he takes office, marks the beginning of a new, vital chapter in Finland’s political atmosphere.

Cover image: Alexander Stubb (left) shakes hands with Pekka Haavisto (right) after narrow elections place Stubb in line for the Finnish Presidency. 

Vukasin Tolic
Vukasin Tolic
Economics student who holds an interest in discovering the world by writing about it.

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