Young leaders want re-election in tight elections


A general election in Finland was expected to result in a close finish between three political parties Sunday, with Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Social Democrats fighting to secure a second term running the government.
Over 2,400 candidates from 22 parties were vying for the 200 seats in the Nordic country’s parliament, the Eduskunta. Some 40% of eligible voters cast their ballots in advance.
Marin, who at age 37 is one of Europe’s youngest leaders, has received praise for her cabinet’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and for her prominent role, along with President Sauli Niinistö, in advocating for Finland’s successful application to join NATO. Her vocal support of Ukraine in the last year has increased her international visibility.
“Of course we hope that the Social Democrats will win this election… It’s so important because we want to remain an open society. We also want to work together internationally. We want to build a better, greener, sustainable future where people have the same opportunities in life,” Marin told the Associated Press while campaigning Saturday in central Helsinki.
Marin remains popular at home, but her party’s views on the Finnish economy, which emerged as the main campaign theme, were being challenged by two main opponents: the center-right National Coalition Party led by Petteri Orpo and the right-wing populist Finns Party, which is led by Riikka Purra.
“The most important thing for the next government is to fix our economy, push economic growth, and balance the public economy. And the second very important issue is to build up NATO-Finland,” Orpo told the AP during a campaign event in Espoo, just outside the capital, on Saturday.
Riikka Purra stressed that the Finns would focus on shaping Finland’s migration, climate, criminal, and energy policies if the Populist Party became a partner in the next government.
“And we also want to tighten up our attitude towards the European Union,” Purra said during a campaign event in the municipality of Kirkkonummi, her home district located some 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Helsinki.
Recent polls indicated each of the three parties could take about 20% of the vote. If that happens, no party would be in a position to form a government alone; whichever party wins the most votes is expected to begin talks in the next few days on forming a governing coalition.
After voting at Helsinki City Hall, university professor Mariana Seppänen said she thinks Marin’s positive reputation abroad exceeds the prime minister’s domestic popularity.