Finland’s center-right National Coalition Party was on track to seize power in Sunday’s general election after voter concerns about the economic prospects fueled dissatisfaction with Social Democrat incumbent Sanna Marin, a star of the European left.
With 99 percent of the votes counted, the National Coalition Party (NCP) under the leadership of Petteri Orpo had secured 48 of Finland’s 200 parliamentary seats, pushing Marin’s party to third place with 43. The Finns Party The extreme right was second with 46 seats.
Marin’s defeat would represent the latest blow for the European left with Germany’s Olaf Scholz under pressure at home and Sweden’s Magdalena Andersson voted in last September’s general election. Denmark’s Mette Frederiksen won a second term last fall only after a sharp shift to the political right.
Marin launched a traditional left-wing campaign in the run-up to Sunday’s vote, criticizing proposed public spending cuts by the center-right and calling on Finns to back fiscal investments that she said would lead to more jobs and economic growth. .
But in the end, fears about rising public debt, a deeply rooted concern in Finland, appeared to have undermined Marin’s prospects with NCP leader Orpo’s message on fiscal discipline winning voters to his side.
“This was a great victory,” Orpo told his supporters as the end of the vote count neared. “Our message has arrived, the support is there and the Finns believe in the National Coalition Party.”
Orpo is now poised for his first chance at forming a government and is likely to try to include the anti-immigration Finns Party. He too could try to strike a deal with the Social Democrats to govern together, though that seems less likely, experts say, after repeated clashes over economic policy between the two in recent months.
If Orpo fails to form a government, Marin could be offered the chance to build a coalition. He has said that he does not want to govern with the Finns, a party he has accused of making openly racist statements.
A change of government is expected to have little impact on Finland’s security posture, with the NCP a strong backer of the country’s NATO membership and military support for Ukraine.
a popular figure
Marin, who took office as Social Democratic leader in 2019, remains a popular figure both at home and abroad. His handling of the COVID pandemic was considered effective and his turn to support Finland’s entry into NATO was well received.
She also maintained strong support among voters despite opposition claims she lacked seriousness after she was filmed dancing and singing with friends at a party last summer.
The Social Democrats’ 43 seats in parliament represented an increase of 3 from the previous election in 2019 and she tried to present that as some kind of victory.
“I’m grateful that our support has increased and that it looks like we’re going to get more mandates,” Marin said when the results came in.
However, the NCP result rose by 10 seats, buoyed by Orpo’s promise to impose fiscal discipline.
As Finland sought to recover from the pandemic, debt-to-GDP ratio rose to 73 percent in the fourth quarter of last year from 66 percent a year earlier, the latest data shows.
As the vote came to a close, Orpo suggested that his approach would be to reverse an expected recession.
“We are starting government negotiations with the economy as the central issue,” Orpo said.