Former PM Stubb, Green candidate Haavisto set for Finland's presidential run-off

Favourites Alexander Stubb and Pekka Haavisto on Sunday qualified for the second round of Finland's presidential election, which took place against a backdrop of soured relations with neighbouring Russia.

With all votes counted, conservative former prime minister Alexander Stubb won 27.2 percent of votes, while ex-foreign minister Pekka Haavisto of the Green Party, running as an independent, secured 25.8 percent, said election officials.

Voter turnout was 71.5 percent.

They will meet in the runoff election on February 11.

"No matter who I'd face in the second round, I know we'll have a constructive, civilised and good discussion about difficult foreign policy questions," Stubb had told public broadcaster Yle earlier.

While the president's powers are limited, the head of state – who also acts as supreme commander of Finland's armed forces – helps direct foreign policy in collaboration with the government. That means that the changing geopolitical landscape in Europe will be the main concern for the winner.

"Experience in foreign policy could be what people were looking for, looking at the two who will go to the next round," Hanna Ojanen, research director of politics at Tampere University, told AFP as the results became clear.

Heading into the vote, experts had thought far-right Finns Party candidate Jussi Halla-aho might make it to the second round. In the end, he came third with 19 percent of the vote.

Voter Hannu Kuusitie told AFP the country needed a president with "leadership" and "humanity".

"Of course, he must also be tough when necessary," he added.

In the post-Cold War period, Helsinki maintained good relations with Moscow.

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