The conservatives in Finland ousted Prime Minister Sanna Marin in parliamentary elections on Sunday. However, no single party has secured majority.
In a fractured mandate, National Coalition Party (NCP) —Finland’s main conservative party— claimed victory after it came first with 20.8 per cent votes. The right-wing populist The Finns came second with 20.1 per cent, and Marin’s Social Democratic Party (SDP) was pushed to the third spot with 19.9 per cent.
However, as the top three parties each got around 20 per cent votes, no party is in position to form a government alone. Talks to form the government will start soon, said NCP leader Petteri Orpo.
“Based on this result, talks over forming a new government to Finland will be initiated under the leadership of the National Coalition Party,” said Orpo, who is expected to be the next Prime Minister of Finland.
Finland election fast facts
Finland’s parliament has 200 seats. Over 2,400 candidates from 22 parties contested for these 200 seats.
NCP’s share of votes translates into 48 seats Finland’s Parliament. The Finns will get 46 seats and Marin’s Social Democrats will 43 seats. The Finns fought on a largely nationalist-populist agenda of anti-immigration and anti-European Union (EU).
The NCP is right of centre but it’s committed to internationalism. NCP leader Orpo has said Finland’s support to Ukraine would not change under NCP.
He said, “First to Ukraine: we stand by you, with you. We cannot accept this terrible war. And we will do all that is needed to help Ukraine, Ukrainian people because they fight for us. This is clear…And the message to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is: go away from Ukraine because you will lose.
Orpo is a former Finance Minister of Finland and is expected to succeed Marin as the Prime Minister.
He further told AP, ““I trust the Finnish tradition of negotiating with all parties, and trying to find the best possible majority government for Finland. And you know what is important for us? It’s that we are an active member of the European Union. We build up NATO-Finland, and we fix our economy. We boost our economic growth and create new jobs. These are the crucial, main, important issues we have to write into the government program.”
Sanna Marin’s legacy as Finland’s Prime Minister
The rout of Marin’s SDP to the third position has dashed her hopes of her re-election. Marin, 37, is among the youngest world leaders and had emerged as one of the most iconic women leaders along with former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, 42, and Mette Frederiksen, 45.
Moreover, Marin received international praise for her vocal support of Ukraine and her prominent role, along with President Sauli Niinistö, in advocating for Finland’s successful application to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Though defeated, Finland’s pro-Ukraine agenda is set to continue under the NCP-led government, as stateed by Orpo.
Finland, which shares a long border with Russia, cleared the last hurdles of becoming a NATO member earlier in the week as alliance members Turkey and Hungary signed off the country’s membership bid.
Implications of Finland elections
Observers say the Finland election result means a power shift in political scene as the nation is now likely to get a new center-right government with nationalist tones.
The positions of Marin’s party on the Finnish economy emerged as a main campaign theme and were challenged by conservatives, who remain critical of the Social Democrats’ economic policies and are unlikely to partner with them.
Orpo had hammered on Finland’s growing government debt and the need to make budget cuts throughout the election. NCP is open to cooperation with The Finns as the two parties largely share view on developing Finland’s economy though have differences in climate policies and EU issues.
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 emerged as major campaign issues as there was a large consensus on the membership among parties complete with high public support.
Finland, which is expected to join NATO in the coming weeks, is a European Union member with a population of 5.5 million.
The initial voter turnout in the election was 71.9 per cent, slightly down from the 2019 election.
(With AP inputs)