Finland’s 200-seat parliament is up for grabs as three parties compete for a majority to form a new government. The Social Democrats Party (SDP), led by Prime Minister Sanna Marin, faces tough competition from the centre-right National Coalition Party and the right-wing populist The Finns Party. Polls suggest each party could take about 20% of the vote, making it unlikely that any one party will be able to form a government alone. The party that wins the most votes is expected to begin talks in the next few days on forming a governing coalition.
More than 2,400 candidates from 22 parties are vying for the 200 seats in Finland’s parliament, the Eduskunta. Polling stations opened at 9am (06:00 GMT) and closed at 8pm (17:00 GMT). Initial results based on early votes were expected to be released immediately after polls closed, with a preliminary final result available at about midnight on Monday.
The Finnish economy has emerged as the main campaign theme, with voters concerned about how the government plans to tackle inflation and address climate change. Inflation rose to 8.8% in February, driven by higher mortgage interest rates and pricier heating bills. Finland’s national debt stood at about €144bn ($157bn) at the end of January, with debt rising during the pandemic and after Russia invaded Ukraine. The government borrowed more money to fortify its defence systems.
Marin, who at 37 is one of Europe’s youngest leaders, took the leadership of the SDP in 2019 and has since guided the country throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, for which she has received praise, and piloted the country towards NATO membership. Her staunch support of Ukraine in the last year has increased her international visibility. She has become known for her straightforward politics and modern feminist ideals. Videos of her enjoying her private life have also made global headlines, attracting sympathy from those who see her as a role model for a new generation of young politicians, and vocal criticism from some more conservative members of the opposition.
The SDP’s views on the Finnish economy are being challenged by the National Coalition Party and The Finns Party. Petteri Orpo, leader of the National Coalition Party, said during a campaign event in Espoo that the most important thing in the next government is to fix Finland’s economy, push economic growth, and balance public economy. Riikka Purra, leader of The Finns Party, stressed that her party would focus on shaping Finland’s migration, climate, criminal, and energy policies if it becomes a partner in the next government. She also wants to tighten up Finland’s attitude towards the European Union.
Finland, which is expected to join NATO in the coming weeks, is a European Union member with a population of 5.5 million.