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Estonia's leaders congratulate Alexander Stubb as Finland's next president

Alexander Stubb accepting victory in Sunday's presidential election in Finland.
Alexander Stubb accepting victory in Sunday's presidential election in Finland. Source: SCANPIX/AP/Sergei Grits

Estonia's leaders have congratulated Alexander Stubb on becoming Finland's president-elect, after Sunday's round two election.

Finnish public broadcaster Yle reports on its English-language page that Finland's next president will be that country's former prime minister Alexander Stubb (NCP), who had been favorite in the race since he entered it last summer.

A center-right candidate, Stubb will replace Sauli Niinistö, who has been in office for two six-year terms, since 2012.

Since Niinistö is also an NCP member, this represents continuity, alongside the fact that Finland's prime minister, Petteri Orpo, is also a member of the liberal-conservative NCP.

Stubb and Pekka Haavisto, a green running as an independent, progressed past the presidential election first round to the second round run-off, which took place Sunday and saw Stubb win by a narrow margin, 51.6 percent against 48.4 percent.

Tweeting in Finnish, President of Estonian Alar Karis welcomed the news, noting that as twin nations, Finland and Estonia will become even closer than before, to the benefit of regional security.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) offered her "warmest congratulations on being elected President of Finland, my dear friend Alexander Stubb."

Second-round turnout was 70.7 percent, down from 75 percent in the first round two weeks ago, Yle reports, while with a little under 94 percent of the vote counted on Sunday, the public broadcaster forecast Stubb (NCP) as the winner. Haavisto, 65, said he will now focus his attention on his job as an MP, and will not run for president again, having already run twice before this time.

Stubb's initial comments after the result was declared included a desire to put Finland in the "core" of NATO. "I want to continue Niinistö's line, but it's understandable that a new era is beginning," he said, citing three security "locks," namely spending on defense of 2.3 percent of GDP this year, membership of NATO and the EU, and a defensive cooperation agreement with the U.S.

Stubb also contrasted presidential elections in Finland favorably with the way in which they are conducted in the U.S. "I'm very proud of the way we have conducted the elections here in Finland," he said, in response to a question relating to defense and security and the prospect of Donald Trump re-entering office in the U.S. after November's election there.

"It's been very constructive, very positive, and in many ways very respectful. It's been a victory I think for liberal democracy. The reason for that is for us foreign and security policy is existential. We fully understand that we cannot have tough debates on foreign and security policy, especially not in this world political situation," he continued.

"I've lived in the U.S., I've studied in the United States and I'm fully aware that American presidential elections are slightly different in nature. I've been following them from the time when Bill Clinton was elected. I'm sure we all agree that Nato is the strongest military alliance in the world, collective defense is based on [NATO] Article 5," Stubb added, according to Yle.

Nonetheless, "The US is a very close ally of ours and I predict and believe that this alliance will continue."

Pro-European Stubb's political rise came quickly some 15 years ago, Yle reports. Stubb, 55, was prime minister 2014 to 2015 after replacing Jyrki Katainen as NCP leader. Stubb's English wife was originally from Solihull, in the West Midlands.

Finland's head of state has a role in foreign and defense policy, though not in the day-to-day running of government. Constitutional amendments enacted in 1999 reduced Finnish presidents' powers somewhat, and the office now shares executive authority with the prime minister, Petteri Orpo (NCP).

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Yle

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