Marin admits defeat: Finland is about to change government


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Marin concedes defeat
Finland is about to change government

After an exciting evening of elections in Finland, one thing is certain: Despite gains, Prime Minister Marin’s Social Democrats are only the third strongest force. The big winners are the conservatives, closely followed by right-wing populists.

After the parliamentary elections in Finland, Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Social Democrats are no longer the strongest party in parliament. Despite gains, the party was only in third place after almost all votes were counted late on Sunday evening, behind the conservative National Coalition Party and the right-wing populist party The Finns. Ex-Finance Minister Petteri Orpo’s conservatives were on the verge of a narrow election victory and 48 of the 200 mandates. The Finns party had 46 mandates, Marin’s Social Democrats 43. Finland is therefore on the verge of a change of government.

“You know what? That was a big win,” said the 53-year-old Orpo late at night in front of cheering party supporters in Helsinki. Talks on the formation of a new Finnish government would begin, led by his party.

Marin told supporters that the ruling party had made gains for the first time in a long time. “We did well,” she said. The Prime Minister admitted the defeat and congratulated the election winners. “Democracy has spoken,” said the 37-year-old in front of supporters of her party in the evening.

Only 0.1 percentage points separate social democrats and right-wing populists

Finland had previously experienced a thrilling election night. A first trend immediately after the polling stations closed saw conservatives and social democrats almost on a par. The right-wing populists around their leader Riikka Purra followed at a smaller distance at the time, but caught up in the course of the evening. After counting more than 99 percent of the vote, the Conservatives were 20.8 percent ahead of the Finns Party with 20.0 and Marin’s Social Democrats with 19.9 percent. Voter turnout was 71.9 percent, roughly the same as in the last parliamentary election in 2019.

It is important which party is the strongest because traditionally in Finland its leader is the first to be given the task of forming a government. For a parliamentary majority, the winner of the election is likely to have to rely on another of the large parties and at least one of the medium-sized and smaller parties.

NATO accession plays no role in the election campaign

Sanna Marin has been Prime Minister of Finland since the end of 2019. Since then she has become one of the most sought-after politicians within the EU. The 37-year-old Social Democrat leads a five-party centre-left coalition. Many Finns value her as a young, modern and powerful leader. Your government first led the northernmost country in the EU through the corona pandemic and then, together with President Sauli Niinistö, through the NATO accession process, which will be completed shortly: all 30 current alliance members have now agreed to the admission of the Finns in a few days According to NATO, Finland is officially the 31st member of the defense alliance. However, joining NATO played no role in the election campaign. Instead, the main focus was on domestic issues such as increased government spending. Marin’s opponents accuse her of driving up the national debt. Orpo promised a new economic policy.

In the last parliamentary election four years ago, the three parties were separated by less than one percentage point – with the best outcome for the Social Democrats, who had 17.7 percent at the time. The fact that they are now aiming for a better result than they did back then is unusual by Finnish standards and is mainly attributed to Marin’s popularity. Typically, the party at the top of the government in Finland loses support over its tenure while the opposition gains.

What is striking about the numbers: the three largest parties were all well above their share of the vote in 2019. All of the current governing parties, with the exception of the Social Democrats, experienced losses, with the Greens in particular falling significantly. Since the election campaign focused very much on the division between left and right, it was difficult for her party to make her voice heard, Greens leader Maria Ohisalo said early in the evening. “Of course it’s a disappointment.”

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