Both second-round candidates are familiar figures in Brussels and capitals beyond. Stubb was an MEP before he became foreign minister and then premier, while Haavisto played a key role, alongside Niinistö, in preparing the way for Finland to join NATO last year.
Analysts said the days leading up to the second round will be intense for the two candidates as they battle for the allegiance of the right-leaning voters who backed Halla-aho or centrist candidate Olli Rehn, who won 15.4 percent in the first round.
“Now they will be examined in even more detail and measured against each other in a way they haven’t before,” said Åsa von Schoultz, a political scientist at the University of Helsinki, during a Sunday night panel discussion on Finland’s national broadcaster Yle.
Stubb is seen as knowledgeable on international affairs and a confident political player who enjoys the spotlight. He has at times been criticized for brusqueness, however: He once had to apologize after being accused of swearing at a meeting of the Nordic Council, a regional cooperation body.
Haavisto also has a long foreign policy track record. He is often less forceful in debates than Stubb, but is seen as a quietly effective operator.
Both candidates represent mainstream political parties in Finland: Stubb as a longtime lawmaker with the center-right National Coalition Party and Haavisto with the center-left Green Party.
As the final results came in, both Stubb and Haavisto said voters would be asked to make a key decision on who can best manage Finland’s security.
“Voters will have to decide who has the most foreign policy experience and who can be most effective as commander-in-chief for a NATO Finland as well as who matches their values best,” Stubb said.