Finland’s centre-right party claims win amid tight election
HELSINKI (AP) — Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin appears to have lost her bid for a second term on Sunday, with her party headed for defeat by two conservative opponents in an extremely tight three-way race for control of parliament.
The centre-right National Coalition Party claimed victory Sunday evening with around 97.7 per cent of the votes counted, coming out on top at 20.7 per cent. They were followed closely by right-wing populist party The Finns with 20.1 per cent, while the Social Democrats garnered 19.9 per cent.
With the top three parties each getting around 20 per cent of the vote, no party is in position to form a government alone. Over 2,400 candidates from 22 parties were vying for the 200 seats in the Nordic country’s parliament.
“Based on this result, talks over forming a new government to Finland will be initiated under the leadership of the National Coalition Party,” said the party’s leader Petteri Orpo, as he claimed victory surrounded by supporters.
Marin, who at age 37 is one of Europe’s youngest leaders, has received praise for her Cabinet’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and for her prominent role, along with President Sauli Niinistö, in advocating for Finland’s successful application to join NATO. Her vocal support of Ukraine in the last year has increased her international visibility.
Marin remains popular at home but her party’s views on the Finnish economy, which emerged as the main campaign theme, were being challenged by conservatives.
Orpo had hammered on economic issues at a campaign event Saturday.
After voting at Helsinki City Hall, university professor Mariana Seppänen said she thinks Marin’s positive reputation abroad exceeds the prime minister’s domestic popularity.
“I think usually the party that has been in charge and has the prime minister … loses the election, and the criticism has been very harsh,” Seppänen said. “But I think she (Marin) has a lot of support anyway.”
While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted Finland to seek NATO membership in May 2022, neither the historic decision to abandon the nation’s non-alignment policy nor the war have emerged as major campaign issues. Finland shares a long land border with Russia.