Finland's centre-right party claims win amid tight election

Chair of SDP Sanna Marin, left, and chair of The Finns party Riikka Purra, right, look on as National Coalition Party chair Petteri Orpo cheers at the parliamentary election.
Chair of SDP Sanna Marin, left, and chair of The Finns party Riikka Purra, right, look on as National Coalition Party chair Petteri Orpo cheers at the parliamentary election. Copyright AP Photo
By Euronews with AP
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Incumbent Prime Minister Sanna Marin's Social Democrats are trailing in what has long been seen as a three-way race.

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Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin appears to have lost her bid for a second term on Sunday, with her party headed for defeat by two conservative opponents in an extremely tight three-way race for control of parliament.

The centre-right National Coalition Party claimed victory Sunday evening with around 97.7% of the votes counted, coming out on top at 20.7%. They were followed closely by the right-wing populist party The Finns with 20.1%, while the Social Democrats garnered 19.9%.

With the top three parties each getting around 20% of the vote, no party is in a position to form a government alone. Over 2,400 candidates from 22 parties were vying for the 200 seats in the Nordic country’s parliament.

“Based on this result, talks over forming a new government in Finland will be initiated under the leadership of the National Coalition Party,” said the party's leader Petteri Orpo, as he claimed victory surrounded by supporters.

Marin, who at age 37 is one of Europe’s youngest leaders, has received praise for her Cabinet’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and for her prominent role, along with President Sauli Niinistö, in advocating for

Marin remains popular at home but her party’s views on the Finnish economy, which emerged as the main campaign theme, were being challenged by conservatives.

Orpo had hammered on economic issues at a campaign event Saturday.

“The most important thing in the next government is to fix our economy, push economic growth and balance the public economy. And the second very important issue is to build up NATO-Finland," Orpo told The Associated Press in Espoo, just outside the capital.

The Finns leader Riikka Purra emphasised that the populist party would focus on shaping policies regarding migration, climate, crime and energy if it becomes a partner in the next government.

“We also want to tighten up our attitude towards the European Union,” Purra said during a campaign event in the municipality of Kirkkonummi, her home district located some 45 kilometres west of Helsinki.

While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted Finland to seek NATO membership in May 2022, neither the historic decision to abandon the nation’s non-alignment policy nor the war have emerged as major campaign issues. Finland shares a long land border with Russia.

Apart from Finland's economy, other issues the parties debated during the election campaign were the government’s increasing debt, climate change, education, immigration and social benefits.

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