Finland’s left-wing Prime Minister Sanna Marin conceded defeat on Sunday in the Nordic country’s parliamentary elections after a hard-fought victory by the opposition right-wing National Coalition Party (NCP).
The pro-business NCP was expected to win 48 of the 200 seats in parliament, ahead of the nationalist Finns Party on 46 and Marin’s Social Democratic Party on 43, Justice Ministry election data showed with all votes counted.
“We’ve got a huge mandate,” NCP leader Petteri Orbo said in a speech to followers, promising to “fix Finland and its economy.”
Marin’s era as prime minister is expected to come to an end, giving him his first chance to form a coalition to secure a majority in parliament.
“We have gained support, we have won more seats (in parliament). Even if we don’t come first today, it’s a great achievement,” the Prime Minister said in his address to the party members.
Marin, 37, the world’s youngest prime minister when he took office in 2019, is seen by fans around the world as a role model for progressive new leaders, but at home he has faced criticism for his party and government’s public spending.
Although he is popular among many Finns, especially among young moderates, he antagonizes some conservatives and spends lavishly on pensions and education.
The NCP led the polls for nearly two years, though its lead has eroded in recent months. Since taking office in 2019 Marin has pledged to rein in spending to more than 70% of GDP and halt the rise in public debt.
Orpo accused Marin of undermining Finland’s economic resilience at a time when Europe’s energy crisis, fueled by Russia’s war in Ukraine, has hit the country hard and raised the cost of living.
Orpo has said it will negotiate with all groups to secure a majority in parliament, while Marin said his Social Democrats could govern together with the NCP, but would not go into government with the Finns party.
Marin called the Finns party “blatantly racist” during a debate in January – a charge the nationalist group rejected.
The Finns Party’s main goal is to reduce what leader Rika Burra calls “harmful” immigration from developing countries outside the EU. It calls for austerity policies to curb deficit spending, a position it shares with the NCP.
Who is Sanna Marin? (2019)
The most notable of Marin’s foreign policy actions was his push, along with President Sauli Niinisto, for the country to make a U-turn on water policy by seeking NATO membership in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
That process is now nearly complete, with Helsinki expected to join within days of all 30 members of the Western security alliance agreeing to join.