Here are five things we know about the Nordic nation’s new president.
After two rounds of voting and a particularly close race, Finland has a new president.
Alexander Stubb of the right-wing National Coalition party (known locally as Kokoomus) defeated left-wing Green politician Pekka Haavisto in Sunday’s vote.
Here are five things we know about the Nordic nation’s new president:
1. Alex Stubb comes from the liberal wing of his party: he is pro-European, in favor of marriage equality and openly internationalist. He has served as party leader, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, and MEP in Brussels. He speaks Finnish, Swedish, English, French and German fluently. A keen sportsman – Stubb went to university in America on a golf scholarship – expects no shortage of photos of Finland’s new president in tight Lycra sportswear competing in Iron Man competitions or skiing, although he may have less time for these activities once he is installed in the presidential palace in Helsinki.
2. Stubb says he wants to be a president who can unify the country. This is no small feat when his Kokoomus party leads the coalition government with the far-right Finns and controversial celebrities with homophobic messages and politicians convicted of racism-related offenses have given him their support during the campaign for the presidential election. A recent Finnish study found that 40% of Stubb’s supporters would not vote for his rival Haavisto because he is gay; while another survey found that 30% of Finnish voters said they took a candidate’s sexuality into account when voting. That’s a lot of unifying work to do.
3. Alex Stubb has never been shy about using social media and is known for his love of selfies with his supporters, especially celebrities. “For me, social media has always been a spontaneous communication channel,” Stubb wrote on X, formerly Twitter, in October 2021. “I manage my own account. I realize the risks. I have been burned several times. According to him, it is better to use social networks to communicate, despite the risks, than not to communicate at all.
4. A 2018 tweet from Stubb with his “old friend and colleague” Sergei Lavrov hasn’t aged well, and he apologized for saying that people who wanted to block Russian investment in a Finnish nuclear power plant were “Russophobes”.
4. Stubb will need to remain humble. One of the criticisms that has been leveled at him many times in the past is his arrogant and entitled attitude. That’s been toned down a lot during this campaign in which he’s worked hard to appear measured and collegial with his opponents, but he needs to keep it up for at least six years in power (already at this point, many political observers doubt that he presents himself for a second term).
5. Stubb has heavy responsibilities to succeed President Sauli Niinistö, who enjoyed very high approval ratings from the Finnish public during the last two terms – 12 years – of his term. There is no doubt that Stubb was attracted to the Finnish presidential race after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Finland’s NATO membership negotiations. A joke among the Helsinki press is that the most dangerous place in Finland is between Alex Stubb and a television camera – that may be true, but there are also a lot of very mundane presidential obligations that Stubb will have to fill away from the spotlight. and he must show that he is just as interested in having afternoon coffee with retirees or visiting a factory and military garrison as he is heading out onto the world stage smiling at the television cameras with his signature smile with big teeth.
At a meeting of Nordic foreign ministers in Denmark in 2011, he was caught on an open mic saying the meeting was “crap”, while the delegation’s deputy berated him saying “With his body language and his words, our minister made it known that northern issues are not high on his agenda. Alex Stubb will need to tackle dull and boring subjects with as much enthusiasm as the international media attention he so enjoys.