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Finland elects more conservative party, ousting progressive prime minister

Photo by Alessandro RAMPAZZO / AFP) (Photo by ALESSANDRO RAMPAZZO/AFP via Getty Images

Finland is set to have a change in leadership after a federal election saw Social Democrat leader Sanna Marin edged out by the right-of-center National Coalition Party, according to the Associated Press.

Just days after Finland was approved to enter NATO, the April 2, 2023, election saw the NCP win 20.8% of the vote (48 seats), the most of any party in an election with over 2,400 candidates from 22 parties.

The right-wing populist Finns Party took in the second-most votes with 20.1% (46 seats), and the now-former prime minister's Social Democrats came in third place with 19.9% (43 seats).

The NCP won largely on economic promises, vowing to "fix Finland." The country's rising state debt reportedly was a predominant issue for voters, along with inflation.

“We got the biggest mandate,” NCP leader Petteri Orpo said, adding that he hopes to "find the best possible majority government for Finland.”

Reports suggest that a more rightward government coalition between the NCP and the Finns is likely.

Univeristy of Helsinki Professor Juhana Aunesluoma told the Associated Press that about two-thirds of voters chose right-wing parties, while about one-third went to the left. It was “a big swing from left to right,” he said in an interview.

The NCP describes its goals as promoting "conciliatory national spirit, enabling social ascension and offering education to everyone, as well as gender equality and work appreciation."

While the party says it shares the views of "centre-right parties of democratic countries," it emphasizes "bio diversity," climate change, and environmental values in its list of principles. This is where the party reportedly differs from the Finns, according to the Associated Press, though the two parties share similar economic outlooks.

The former prime minister called the second-place party "openly racist" in a debate in January, according to CNN, as the Finns have been described as anti-immigration and anti-European Union.

Riikka Purra, leader of the Finns, said ahead of the election that her party would focus on migration, climate, and criminal and energy policies if elected.

"We also want to tighten up our attitude towards the European Union,” Purra said at a campaign event, according to the Evening Standard.

Nine parties in total were elected to Finland's parliament, according to early results, with a voter turnout of nearly 71.9%, slightly lower than the 72% in the 2019 election.

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