Finland Gearing Up for Presidential Election

Finland Gearing Up for Presidential Election

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Finns will vote on Sunday to elect a new president at a time that the Nordic nation has become a NATO member following the Ukraine war and its eastern border with Russia is closed, both almost unthinkable a few years ago.

Unlike in most European countries, the president of Finland holds executive power in formulating foreign and security policy, particularly when dealing with countries outside the European Union like the US, Russia and China.

Some 4.5 million citizens are eligible to vote for Finland’s new head of state from an array of nine candidates —six men and three women— and pick a successor to hugely popular President Sauli Niinistö, whose second six-year term expires in March. He is not eligible for re-election, the AP reported.

Recent polls suggest that former Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, 55, and ex-Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, 65, are the top contenders in Sunday’s first round of voting. None of the candidates are expected get more than 50% of the vote, pushing the race into a runoff in February.

A brief look at a map shows why foreign and security policy matters are important political themes in this northern European country of 5.6 million people: Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer (832-mile) border with Russia.

Candidate debates on television and media coverage have largely focused on Finland’s new role as a member of NATO, as well as the situation in neighboring Russia and its effects on Finland’s security. The war in Ukraine —where Finland is among the top European providers of military and humanitarian aid to Kyiv— and the Israeli regime’s war on Gaza have also emerged as key topics in the race.

Finland became NATO’s 31st member in April last year, much to the annoyance of Russia and President Vladimir Putin.

Finland acts as the European Union’s external border in the north and makes up a significant part of NATO’s northeastern flank.

All eight Finland-Russia border crossing points for passengers have been closed since December 15. The southeastern rail checkpoint for cargo trains in Vainikkala remains open for now.

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