HELSINKI (AP) — Finland’s popular outgoing foreign minister, who was one of the key negotiators of his country’s recent membership in NATO, said Thursday he will run as a candidate in the presidential election early next year.
Veteran politician Pekka Haavisto, Finland’s top diplomat since 2019 and a former leader of the Greens party, told reporters in a news conference that he would run as an independent candidate through a constituency association in the January 2024 election.
The Finnish head of state is elected by a popular vote every six years. Haavisto, 65, has topped recent presidential polls by several media outlets. He is currently the caretaker foreign minister as Finland in the process of getting a new government following April’s general election.
Haavisto is one of Finland’s most popular politicians. He was the runnerup in the 2012 and 2018 presidential elections but was beaten on both occasions by current President Sauli Niinistö.
Following decades of military nonalignment, Finland joined NATO on April 4. Along with Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin, Haavisto was instrumental in the talks over Finland’s membership.
The Finnish head of state has substantial powers, particularly in matters related to foreign and security policy, which president decides together with the government. The president also signs bills into law, can veto legislative proposals, and acts as Finland’s supreme military commander.
Niinistö’s second six-year term ends in March 2024 and he is not eligible for reelection.