Finland’s left-wing Prime Minister Sanna Marin conceded defeat on Sunday after the opposition right-wing National Coalition Party (NCP) declared victory in the Nordic country’s parliamentary election.
Vote tallies reported by the Justice Ministry revealed that the pro-business NCP had won 48 of the 200 seats in parliament, narrowly beating out the nationalist Finns Party (46 seats) and Marin’s Social Democrats (43 seats).
“We got the biggest mandate,” said the leader of the National Coalition Party, Orpo, vowing to “fix Finland” and its economy.
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While Marin’s tenure as prime minister was expected to end, Orpo would have the first opportunity to create a coalition to achieve a majority in parliament.
A tight contest
For weeks, the three parties had been nearly tied in the polls, and as the results rolled in, it became impossible to predict the outcome. Then, national broadcaster YLE projected that Petteri Orpo’s National Coalition would win with the most seats in parliament.
“We have gained support; we have gained more seats (in parliament). That’s an excellent achievement, even if we did not finish first today,” the prime minister, Sanna Marin said in a speech to party members.
Orpo received 20.8% of the vote, surpassing both the right-wing populist Finns Party and the center-left party. The populists earned a record 20.1% of the vote. Marin, who doubled her party’s seats and received 19.9% of the vote, experienced a major defeat.
“I think Finnish people want change. They want change and now I will start negotiations, open negotiations with all parties,” Orpo said.
Three of the other parties in the departing coalition, namely the Centre Party, the Left Alliance, and the Greens, all suffered significant losses.
What caused Marin’s defeat?
Sanna Marin entered the political scene in 2019 as the youngest leader in the world. She led a coalition of five parties, all of which were headed by women. In spite of her effective response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the election was mostly contested over Finland’s economy and public debt, since all major parties supported NATO membership.
Numerous Finns view her as a controversial character. The previous year, a video of her singing, dancing, and drinking at a party drew intense scrutiny. Advocates asserted that the dispute was rooted in misogyny, and women in Finland and throughout the world uploaded recordings of themselves dancing in solidarity.
Since almost two years, the NCP has dominated in polls, although its edge has diminished in recent months. It has pledged to reduce spending and halt the growth of the public debt, which has risen to slightly over 70% of GDP since 2019 when Marin assumed office.
Orpo accused Marin of degrading Finland’s economic resilience at a time when Europe’s energy crisis, fueled by Russia’s war in Ukraine, has severely impacted the country and increased the cost of living. Orpo has stated that he will negotiate with all organisations in order to get a majority in parliament, whilst Marin has stated that her Social Democrats may form a coalition with the NCP but not with the Finns Party.
A major shift in Finnish parliament
With 61 new MPs (at least new at this election, some were MPs previously) more than 30% of the incoming parliament class will be ‘freshmen’ this time. Seven MPs in their 30s, including two Finns Party members called “TikTok stars” by Finnish media for their use of social media platforms to propel themselves into parliament, are among the inflow of new parliamentarians. There are an additional 13 new and returning MPs in their 30s, making the upcoming legislature rather young.
On the other side, however, there are 20 Members aged 60 or older, and the three oldest MPs in their 70s are all Social Democrats, highlighting a problem that the party will need to solve. Yet with so many new members of parliament, there will be numerous exits, including two cabinet ministers from Sanna Marin’s government and Marin’s immediate predecessor as prime minister, Antti Rinne, who won the most recent general election for the Social Democrats in 2019.
Who is Petteri Orpo?
Petteri Orpo is a Finnish politician who serves as the current Minister of Finance and leader of the National Coalition Party.
Orpo, born in 1969 in rural south-west Finland, holds a bachelor’s degree in political science. He has been a member of parliament since 2007 and became leader of the National Coalition in 2016 after challenging former prime minister Alexander Stubb for the party’s leadership.
Orpo, who is regarded as a reasonable and skilled negotiator, has held multiple government positions. He served as Agriculture and Forestry Minister in 2014–2015 and Interior Minister in 2015–2016. Formerly, he served as Finland’s Deputy Prime Minister from 2017 to 2019, and as Minister of Finance from 2016 to 2019. He is also a reserve officer in Finland’s national defense force.
The majority of Finland’s political spectrum praised his handling of the 2015 migration crisis in Europe as interior minister, when the Nordic nation faced a tenfold increase in refugee arrivals. He holds a fair chance of being the next PM and successor of the outgoing PM Sanna Marin.