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Sanna Marin is defeated in the elections in Finland. The popularity of the outgoing prime minister was not enough for the social democrats, who were ousted by the conservatives. At the end of a counting characterized by a prolonged head-to-head, the leader of the National Coalition (Kokoomus) Petteri Orpo claimed victory, and the outgoing prime minister granted it to him. Also making noise is the boom of the far right, which becomes the second force in the country and grows to the highest in its history. Government formation, however, remains a puzzle.
In the vote for the renewal of the Eduskunta, Finland’s unicameral parliament, with almost all of the votes counted, the center-right is credited with obtaining 48 seats out of a total of 200, while the national-populist and eurosceptic party of Riikka Purra’s ‘True Finns’ he gets 46. The party of the outgoing 37-year-old prime minister should get 43. A tortuous negotiation is therefore looming for the formation of the coalition that will support the government, considering the various vetoes expressed by some forces during the electoral campaign. Traditionally in Finland, at the outcome of the elections, with a proportional system and seats assigned by constituencies based on population, the party with the most votes tries to form the government coalition and has indicated the prime minister since the 1990s. For the majority, 101 deputies are needed out of the 200 in parliament. Both the Social Democrats of Marin and the centre-right of Orpo are in marked growth compared to 2019, in a vote that divided the country between for and against cuts in welfare or austerity measures to reduce debt, in a context of inflation at stars and fears of recession. All the parties of the coalition that supports the young prime minister lost votes on this polarization, with a debacle of the Greens and only the Center holding above expectations (12.5%), which will be decisive in the formation of a coalition in which even a MP makes a difference. In 2019, the SPD took the lead by just one seat over Purra (with 17.7% versus 17.5% for the True Finns).
The vote in Finland comes just a few days after the last go-ahead for the historic accession to NATO, with ratification in Turkey arriving on Thursday, but the issue is so shared that it has remained out of the debate. The 37-year-old Marin, well known abroad, very popular at home, also thanks to exemplary management of the pandemic, has moved the Social Democrats to the left in the electoral campaign, focusing on welfare and above all on education which she believes is capable of bringing the wealth of the country, instead attributing the increase in public debt only to the pandemic and crisis in Ukraine and saying she is against any spending cuts. The Orpo Coalition instead calls for austerity measures for 6 billion euros, to bring the public debt back to the virtuous values of the EU. The Real Finns instead express openly anti-migrant and Eurosceptic positions, starting with the request not to respect the commitment for climate neutrality in 2035, without denying the old long-term goal of ‘Fixit’, the exit of Finland from the European Union.
What Orpo wants to do
Petteri Orpo, who emerged victorious from the elections in Finland, could be the next prime minister, replacing Sanna Marin. Orpo is 53 years old, married with two children and was elected as the head of the Finnish conservative liberal party ‘Kokoomus’ in 2016. He has served in several governments in which he held positions from deputy prime minister, finance minister, interior minister and minister of agricultural policies. One of the main points on which he based his electoral campaign was the economy, with the promise of reducing public debt. The Finnish political system provides that the head of the party with the most seats will receive an exploratory post in order to be able to form a government and obtain the support of a parliamentary majority. In this case the conservative party, with its 48 seats, will not have the numbers to govern alone but will have to ask for support from one of the other two major parties: the right-wing nationalist party, 46 seats, or the Social Democrats, led by the outgoing premier Sanna Marin with 43 seats. The right-wing nationalist Perussuomalaiset party has been led since 2021 by the 45-year-old leader Riikka Purra who has tried to modernize the party’s image and among its main points wants to reduce immigration, using neighboring Sweden as a negative example, in terms of migration. An important fact of these elections is the growth of the big parties and the loss of votes of the smaller ones such as the Center party, the Greens and the Left party. Finnish media speculate that it may be tactical voting in which voters have chosen the largest parties to try to ensure that their political side wins, against that of the opposition. The process of negotiations before forming a government could take several days.