Presidential chosen for the task on Sunday Alexander Stubb (kok) takes office as president on the first day of March.
For the next two and a half weeks, the incoming president will spend all his time getting ready to step in for the outgoing president Sauli Niinistön in boots the first of March.
How does the change of power go and how is continuity in the presidential institution ensured?
Stubby familiarization with the task is facilitated by the fact that during his career he has been able to follow the president’s task closely. While serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs, State Finance and Prime Minister, he has participated in the joint meetings of the tp-utva, i.e. the Ministerial Committee for Foreign and Security Policy, and the President of the Republic, where President Niinistö has kept the Government Council informed of his own activities.
The preparation of Finland’s foreign policy also takes place in matters under the president’s competence in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which Stubb is familiar with from his time as foreign minister.
From the candidates during the presidential election campaign, a wide range of foreign policy issues were tested: we are also well informed about current topics thanks to familiarization during the campaign.
However, not all information available to the president is public. The president has access to both the civilian intelligence data of the security police and the military intelligence data held by the Defense Forces. The new president will also be given a situational picture of these, probably right at the beginning of the season.
The president can choose his cabinet himself
Although the new president would be well informed about the issues related to his job description, he is not the only one who will start work in the Presidential Palace in March. The president’s work is made possible by this cabinet acting as advisors, whose size, division of work and staff the president can choose himself.
The cabinet is led by the head of the president’s office, in addition to which Niinistö’s cabinet has included a legal advisor, a foreign and security policy advisor, an advisor for domestic affairs, an advisor for international affairs, and a communications manager.
Although the new president gets to choose his own cabinet, in fact the possibilities of influence on the number of assistants, for example, are limited: with the current budget, it is difficult to hire a larger cabinet, unless additional funding comes from the government.
However, the persons appointed to the cabinet are fully selectable by the president, and probably the majority will change when the new president takes office. Most, if not all, of the assistant posts have probably also been agreed upon before the election victory is confirmed to ensure an effective start. Like the new president, the new president’s cabinet is also being trained as well as possible before the beginning of March.
Continuity is provided by the three adjutants appointed by the President of the Defense Forces, who will continue in their duties despite the change of president.
The public can watch the inauguration
First March will be a spectacular day. Especially during a direct national election, the inauguration of the president has become a televised event that can be watched from every home across the country.
When Niinistö took office, the inauguration ceremony began at the Parliament House, where he and the outgoing president Tarja Halonen gave their speech in the plenary hall: Halonen his first as a former and Niinistö his first as a sitting president of the republic.
After the speeches at the Parliament building, Niinistö and Halonen moved through the inspection of the company of honor to the Presidential Palace, where the diplomatic corps, among others, got to meet the new president at the reception.
Fresh from the Presidential Palace, the presidential couple moved to their official residence in Mäntyniemi.
Day is also President Niinistö’s last representative assignment as the president of the republic: after that, he goes back to almost being an ordinary citizen.
But only almost: former presidents are offered the possibility of working facilities as needed, in addition to which transport, secretarial and office services are available. The security of former presidents is taken care of even after the end of the term.
The former president can also be offered a suitable apartment for a reasonable rent, but since the beginning of his term, Niinistö has also lived near Mäntyniemi in his home in Espoo’s Laaksolahti, so he does not necessarily need this.
In addition, Niinistö receives a tax-free pension of 60 percent of the amount of the president’s remuneration.
Office apartment initially in Munkkiniemi instead of Mäntyniemi
Otherwise like Niinistö, Alexander Stubb cannot move to Mäntyniemi, the official residence of the president in Meilahti, Helsinki. During the renovation that starts in connection with the change of president, the president will live in a state guest house in Munkkiniemi.
The state guest house traditionally accommodates high-level state guests. For example, the President of the United States Donald Trump stayed there when visiting Helsinki in 2018.
After Trump’s visit, the guest house has been extensively renovated, taking into account the temporary use of the space as the president’s residence.
Some of the presidents have also lived in the Presidential Palace during their terms, most recently Mauno Koivisto, during which period Mäntyniemi was built. However, according to the President’s Office, it is no longer possible to live in the Presidential Palace today due to changes in the space.
Like Niinistö, Stubb also has the opportunity to live partly in his own home in addition to the guest house. Stubb’s home is in Espoo’s Westend.