Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s re-election hopes failed as Finland’s main conservative party came out on top in a closely fought election.
Finland’s main conservative party has won a closely contested parliamentary election.
With all votes counted on Sunday, the centre-right National Alliance Party (NCP) came out on top with 20.8 percent of the vote. They were followed by the right-wing populist party The Finns with 20.1 percent and Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Social Democrats with 19.9 percent.
With the top three parties securing 20 percent of the vote each, no party is in a position to form a government on its own. More than 2,400 candidates from 22 parties competed for 200 seats in the Nordic country’s parliament.
“We’ve got a huge mandate,” said NCP leader Petteri Orbo, surrounded by supporters at a restaurant in the capital Helsinki.
“On the basis of this decision, negotiations on forming a new government in Finland under the leadership of the National Alliance Party will begin,” he said.
Marin, one of Europe’s youngest leaders at 37, conceded defeat.
“Congratulations to the winner of the election, congratulations to the National Alliance, congratulations to The Finns. “Democracy has spoken,” the Prime Minister said in an address to party members.
“We have got support, we have got more seats [in parliament]. Even if it didn’t take first place today, it’s a great achievement,” he added.
Regarded by fans around the world as a millennial role model for progressive new leaders, Marin won international acclaim for speaking out for Ukraine and for his key role with President Sauli Niinisto in supporting Finland’s successful application to join NATO.
But at home, he faced criticism for his partying and his government’s extravagant public spending, including pensions and education.
The NCP, which has led the polls for nearly two years, has accused Marin of eroding the country’s economic resilience at a time when Europe’s energy crisis, fueled by Russia’s war in Ukraine, has hit the country hard and the cost of living has risen.
Since taking office in 2019, Marin has pledged to curb the rise in public debt, which has reached just 70 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), and rein in spending.
Orbo, 53, told The Associated Press on Sunday that Finland’s solidarity with Ukraine would remain strong during his tenure.
“First to Ukraine: we stand with you, we are with you,” the former finance minister said at NCP’s victory event.
“We cannot accept this terrible war. Ukraine, we will do everything necessary to help the Ukrainian people because they are fighting for us. It is clear.”
“And the news [Russian President Vladimir] Putin: Get out of Ukraine, because you will lose,” Orbo said.
The NCP’s vote in Finland’s parliament, Eduskunta, translates to 48 seats, while The Finns, a nationalist party running on an anti-immigration and anti-EU agenda, should win 46 seats and Marin’s Social Democrats 43 seats respectively.
Observers say the result signals a power shift in Finland’s political scene, with the country now likely to get a new center-right government with a nationalist tone.
Talks to form an NCP-led government are expected to begin in the coming days with the aim of forming a cabinet that will enjoy a majority in parliament.
Despite differences on climate policies and EU issues, the NCP is open to cooperation with The Finns, as both parties largely share views on improving Finland’s economy.
“I believe in the Finnish tradition of negotiating with all parties and trying to find the best majority government for Finland,” Arbo told the AP.
“You know what’s important to us? We are an active member of the European Union. We are building NATO-Finland and fixing our economy. We increase our economic growth and create new jobs. These are the important, important, important issues that we should write in the government plan,” he said.
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