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Finland’s right-wing National Coalition party wins close election | Election news

Finland’s right-wing National Coalition party wins close election |  Election news

Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s re-election hopes are dashed as Finland’s main conservative party comes out on top in a closely contested election.

Finland’s main conservative party declared victory in a heated parliamentary election.

With all votes counted on Sunday, the center-right National Coalition Party (NCP) came out on top with 20.8 percent. The right-wing Populist Party of Finland followed them with 20.1 percent, while the Social Democratic Party of Prime Minister Santa Marin got 19.9 percent.

With the top three parties each receiving around 20% of the vote, no party is in a position to form a government on its own. More than 2,400 candidates from 22 parties are vying for 200 seats in the Scandinavian country’s parliament.

“We’ve got the biggest mandate,” said NCP leader Petteri Urbu, as he claimed victory, amid supporters at a restaurant in the capital, Helsinki.

“Based on this result, talks to form a new government for Finland led by the National Coalition Party will begin,” he said.

Marin, who at 37 was one of the youngest captains in Europe, conceded defeat.

Congratulations to the winner of the elections, congratulations to the National Coalition Party, congratulations to the Finnish Party. Democracy has spoken,” the prime minister said in a speech to party members.

We got support, and we won more seats [in parliament]. This is an excellent achievement, even if we didn’t finish first today.”

Marin, regarded by fans around the world as a new millennium role model for progressive leaders, has won international praise for her vocal support of Ukraine and her prominent role, along with President Sauli Niinisto, in advocating Finland’s successful application to join NATO.

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But at home, she faced criticism for her partying and the government’s generous public spending, including on pensions and education.

Finland’s Prime Minister and Social Democrat leader Sanna Marin speaks at the party’s parliamentary election event in Helsinki, Finland April 2, 2023 [Emmi Korhonen/ Lehtikuva via Reuters]

The National Congress Party, which has led in opinion polls for nearly two years, accused Marin of undermining the country’s economic resilience at a time when Europe’s energy crisis, prompted by Russia’s war in Ukraine, has hit the country hard and sent the cost of living soaring.

She promised to reduce spending and stem the rise in public debt, which has reached just over 70 percent of gross domestic product since Marin took office in 2019.

Urbu, 53, told the Associated Press news agency on Sunday that Finland’s solidarity with Ukraine will remain strong during his tenure.

“First for Ukraine: we stand by you, with you,” said the former finance minister at the NCP’s victory ceremony. We cannot accept this terrible war. And we will do whatever is needed to help Ukraine, the Ukrainian people because they are fighting for us. This is a clear.”

And the letter to [Russian President Vladimir] “Putin: stay away from Ukraine, because you will lose,” Urbu said.

The NCP’s vote share translates to 48 seats in Eduskunta, Finland’s parliament, while the Finns, a largely nationalist party operating on an anti-immigration and anti-EU agenda, will take 46 seats and 43 seats for Marin’s Social Democrats respectively.

Observers say the result means a power shift in the Finnish political landscape, as the nation is now likely to get a new center-right government with nationalist overtones.

Government formation talks led by the National Congress Party are expected to begin in the coming days with the aim of forming a government with a majority in Parliament.

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The NCP is open to cooperation with the Finns as both sides largely share views on the development of the Finnish economy despite differences on climate policies and EU issues.

“I trust the Finnish tradition of negotiating with all parties, trying to find the best possible majority government for Finland,” Urbu told the AP.

“And you know what is important to us? It is that we are an active member of the European Union. We are building NATO and Finland, we are reforming our economy. We are strengthening our economic growth and creating new jobs. These are the critical, key and important issues that we have to write into the government programme.