HELSINKI: Finland’s opposition right-wing National Coalition Party (NCP) was on track to narrowly win Sunday’s parliamentary election in a tight three-way race, public broadcaster Yle projected, with 71% of votes counted.
The NCP was seen winning 48 of the 200 seats in parliament, ahead of the nationalist Finns Party with 46 seats and Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Social Democrats with 43 seats, Yle’s projection showed.
“My thought is that those are really heavy numbers on the screen … a strong mandate for our politics,” NCP leader Petteri Orpo told Yle after seeing the prediction.
The leader of the largest group in parliament gets the first chance at forming a coalition to obtain a majority, meaning Marin’s time as prime minister could be about to come to an end.
Marin, 37, the world’s youngest prime minister when she took office in 2019, is considered by fans around the globe as a millennial role model for progressive new leaders, but at home, she has faced criticism for her partying and her government’s public spending.
The NCP has led in polls for almost two years although its lead had melted away in recent months. It has promised to curb spending and stop the rise of public debt, which has reached just over 70% of GDP since Marin took office in 2019.
Orpo accused Marin of eroding Finland’s economic resilience at a time when Europe’s energy crisis, driven by Russia’s war in Ukraine, has hit the country hard and the cost of living has increased.
Orpo has said he will negotiate with all groups to obtain a majority in parliament, while Marin has said her Social Democrats may govern with the NCP but will not go into government with the Finns Party.
Marin called the Finns Party “openly racist” during a debate in January – an accusation the nationalist group rejected.
The Finns Party’s main goal is to reduce what leader Riikka Purra has called “harmful” immigration from developing countries outside the European Union. It also calls for austerity policies to curb deficit spending, a stance it shares with the NCP.