© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People vote prematurely through the second spherical of the Finnish presidential election at a retailer in Espoo, Finland, on the final day of advance voting, February 6, 2024. Lehtikuva/Antti Aimo-Koivistovia REUTERS
By Anne Kauranen
HELSINKI (Reuters) – Whichever of the 2 remaining candidates wins Finland’s presidential election on Sunday, the nation’s new head of international and safety coverage will be a pro-European cosmopolitan and robust supporter of Ukraine.
He will tackle the position from incumbent Sauli Niinisto, who’s retiring, in a new period for the nation inside NATO after it broke with a long time of non-alignment to hitch the Western defence alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Finland’s president works in shut cooperation with the federal government and represents the nation at NATO conferences, whereas additionally appearing as a Commander-in-Chief of Finnish Defence Forces.
Former prime minister Alexander Stubb, of the National Coalition Party, narrowly gained the primary spherical of voting on Jan. 28, and leads former international minister, centre-left liberal Pekka Haavisto, by 6-8 share factors within the polls.
“Both are characteristically urban candidates and they both have a strong international profile,” the pinnacle of Finland’s Centre for Parliamentary Studies Markku Jokisipila stated.
Jokisipila stated centre-right Stubb is the clear frontrunner, based mostly on present ballot assist that exhibits round one third of the voters again leftist and inexperienced political events whereas the remainder are kind of conservatively oriented.
If Haavisto, operating for president for a third time, achieves a shock win, he would develop into Finland’s first overtly homosexual president. His sexual orientation stays a issue for voters, nevertheless, with latest polls displaying one in three noticed the truth that he has a male accomplice as a motive to not again him.
DEEPER NATO COOPERATION
During the marketing campaign, Stubb has steered away from his earlier EU federalism to enchantment to a broader viewers, whereas remaining “internationally oriented” and in favour of deep NATO cooperation, University of Helsinki political scientist Johanna Vuorelma stated.
While Green Party member Haavisto stated he would persist with Finland’s present laws which unambiguously prohibits nuclear weapons on Finnish territory, Stubb would permit their transportation however not storage in Finland.
“Stubb stands ready to go deeper into all the cores of NATO,” the Centre for Parliamentary Studies’ Jokisipila stated.
He identified that Stubb additionally helps the thought of getting everlasting NATO troops positioned within the nation, not like Haavisto, who has stated he sees no want.
The query of the bounds of Finland’s NATO position has been within the highlight after the nation signed a defence cooperation settlement with the U.S. in December, giving the U.S. navy unimpeded entry to fifteen services and areas in Finland, the place it will possibly additionally retailer navy gear and ammunition.
Finland shares a 1,340-km (830-mile) border with Russia, which objected to the defence pact. Moscow referred to as it “an obvious threat to us” and stated it could not “leave unanswered the buildup of NATO military potential on our border”.
Supporters of nationalist Finns Party candidate Jussi Halla-aho, eradicated within the first spherical after receiving 19% of the vote, might be alienated by each remaining candidates’ worldwide orientation, Vuorelma stated.
“It could mean that many Finns Party supporters will refrain from voting, partially in protest and some because both candidates are so similar that the outcome doesn’t really matter to them,” she stated.