The two candidates expressed very similar views on the issues most on the minds of voters – they have both strongly supported joining NATO and take a tough line on Russia. The differences between them are largely stylistic.
During his campaign, Stubb, a former prime minister who went to college in South Carolina, emphasised his desire to bolster trans-Atlantic relations on the campaign trail and regularly played up his hard-line stance.
“I’m as hawkish as the best of them, there’s no question about that,” he told The New York Times before the vote.
He said countering Russia had become more difficult in an era of hybrid warfare.
A section of the Balticconnector, a gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia, was damaged by a Chinese ship as it travelled between two Russian ports last year. Although an investigation into the episode is still under way, many security experts suspect sabotage. There also has been a surge in cyberattacks, some of which Russia has claimed responsibility for.
One issue particularly concerning to voters has been a sudden sharp increase in asylum seekers crossing into Finland from over the Russian border, which many in Finland view as a signal from Russia in response to its NATO membership. Moscow had warned there would be “countermeasures” for Finland joining NATO.
“The line between war and peace has been blurred,” Stubb said.
Voter turnout for the runoff election was about 71 per cent of the electorate, and lue and white Finnish flags were hoisted on buildings around the capital to honour the day. The custom in Finland is to have coffee and cake after voting, and many families turned out to polling stations with their children, who could share in the treats with their parents afterward.
Beyond their border with Russia, however, there is another concern for Finnish voters across the Atlantic: what is in store for Finland’s NATO membership should former US president Donald Trump, an outspoken critic of the alliance who has even suggested the United States might leave it, win the presidential election in November?
“The whole decision of joining NATO banked on the idea that the US, the Americans, are here to stay and that US commitment is long-lasting,” said Matti Pesu of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.
“If the US decided to weaken its commitment, it would be a huge irony, and it would weaken the deterrence value of Finland’s NATO membership.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
Get a note directly from our foreign correspondents on what’s making headlines around the world. Sign up for the weekly What in the World newsletter here.