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Finland’s Conservatives Defeated Sanna Marin

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On Sunday evening, Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin conceded defeat in parliamentary elections after being overtaken by two conservative opponents in a tight three-way race.

With approximately 97.7 percent of the votes counted, the centre-right National Coalition Party claimed victory, coming out on top with 20.7 percent. They were closely followed by the Finns, a right-wing populist party, with 20.1 percent, and the Social Democrats, with 19.9 percent.

No single party is capable of forming a government. Over 2,400 candidates from 22 parties ran for the 200 seats in Parliament.
“On the basis of this result, discussions about forming a new government in Finland will begin under the leadership of the National Coalition Party,” said the party’s leader, Petteri Orpo, as he declared victory in front of supporters.

Ms Marin, one of Europe’s youngest leaders at 37, has received praise for her Cabinet’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and for her prominent role in advocating for Finland’s successful application to join Nato, alongside President Sauli Niinisto.

In the last year, her vocal support for Ukraine has increased her international visibility.

Ms Marin remains popular at home, but conservatives are challenging her party’s views on the Finnish economy, which emerged as the main campaign theme.

At a campaign event on Saturday, Mr. Orpo hammered on economic issues.

“The most important thing in the next government is to fix our economy, accelerate economic growth, and balance the public economy.” “He told the Associated Press in Espoo, Finland, just outside the capital.

“The second critical issue is to strengthen Nato-Finland.”
If the Finns become a partner in the next government, their leader, Riikka Purra, said the populist party would focus on shaping policies on migration, climate, crime, and energy.

“We also want to tighten our stance towards the European Union,” Ms Purra said during a campaign event in Kirkkonummi, her home district about 45 kilometres west of Helsinki.

Mariana Seppanen, a university professor, said after voting at Helsinki City Hall that Ms Marin’s positive reputation abroad outweighed the prime minister’s domestic popularity.

Social Democratic Party chairwoman and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin on April 2 in Helsinki. (Image by: AFP)

“I think usually the party in power and with the prime minister loses the election, and the criticism has been very harsh,” Ms Seppanen said.
“But I believe she [Ms Marin] has a lot of support in any case.”

While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted Finland to apply for Nato membership in May 2022, neither the historic decision to abandon the country’s non-alignment policy nor the war have emerged as major campaign issues. Finland and Russia share a long land border.

Apart from the economy, the parties debated the government’s growing debt, climate change, education, immigration, and social benefits during the election campaign.

“I know Sanna Marin is very popular and she has done great, and most Finns also think she has done an amazing job with the coronavirus,” Evelina Makela, another Helsinki voter, said.

“But perhaps we should consider the current crisis; some of us still believe she does an excellent job, while others, apparently, want something new.””

Finland is an EU member with a population of 5.5 million and is expected to join Nato in the coming weeks.

Info source – The National News

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