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Sanna Marin concedes defeat in Finland


IT became A typical image of Finnish election campaigning: Social Democrat Prime Minister Sanna Marin and far-right Finn Party leader Rika Pula vigorously waving fingers at each other in a televised debate. The winner, however, was neither Ms. Marin nor Ms. Parra, but the third candidate in the debate. Petteri Orpo’s center-right National Coalition Party narrowly won Finland’s general election on April 2, taking 20.8 percent of the vote to the Finns’ 20.1 percent and the Social Democrats’ 19.9 percent. Mr Olpo now faces the tricky task of forming a governing coalition.

Ms Marin, 37, has been prime minister since 2019 and has gained international fame for her strong support for Ukraine and decisive inclusion of Finland NATO: Became the 31st member of the alliance on April 4. Although her image was clouded by an embarrassing leak last summer that showed her dancing enthusiastically with friends (she took a drug test to dispel rumours), the Finn has come out on top after her steady handling of COVID-19 policy. Start taking Ms. Marin seriously. “She was a young prime minister in difficult circumstances, but she was very credible as a leader throughout the pandemic,” said political scientist Teija Tiilikainen.

However Ukraine and NATO They were barely mentioned during the campaign because almost all Finnish political parties now agree with them.The National Coalition Party defended its position at least as firmly as the Social Democrats; its two new Congressmans is a former general. Unlike many far-right populist groups in Europe, the Finns have little sympathy for Russia. It prefers to be skeptical of EU and climate policy and hostile to immigration.

The battle was largely fought elsewhere. Fiscal conservatives, Finns fear government debt rises to 75% gross domestic product during a pandemic. Rising defense spending will exacerbate this situation. Mr Orpo has promised to lower the deficit by cutting social spending; Ms Marin has promised it will.

The election revealed a new phenomenon for Finns: tactical voting. Both the Social Democrats and the National League have urged sympathetic supporters of the minor parties to re-elect them to boost their chances of leading the government first. As a result, large parties got bigger, while most of the smaller ones shrunk—the opposite of the splintering trend observed in most other European democracies.

So while Ms Marin has done quite well, increasing the SPD’s vote share, the overall result has been a turn to the right. In the quest for a majority, Mr Orpo’s most immediate option is to form a staunchly right-wing government with Ms Purra. Failing that, he will have to try to form a centrist “red and blue” government with the Social Democrats.

The policy implications of the hard right option are difficult to predict. The image of the Finns party has softened. In 2019, one of its campaign ads depicted a fiery ancient monster rising to avenge the corrupt leaders of the Finnish people. This year it begged the country to burn domestic peat to ease energy shortages.

On April 5, Ms Marin announced that she would resign as leader of the Social Democratic Party in the autumn. Her party will need to bide its time and see how Mr Olpo’s negotiations turn out. If he can’t form a coalition, it might still have a chance to try again. But Finland is losing its international figurehead. It is unusual for such a stoic country to have a flamboyant leader. Mr Olpo represents a return to normalcy.

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