Election in Finland: Will Sanna Marin remain Prime Minister?

Election in Finland: Will Sanna Marin remain Prime Minister?

NNot many people in the rest of Europe have been interested in Finnish leaders in the past — then along came Sanna Marin. As a young, charismatic prime minister, the social democrat has become one of the most sought-after politicians in the EU. Nevertheless, it is completely open whether she can continue to govern in the future NATO country Finland after the upcoming parliamentary elections this Sunday. Three parties have a good chance of becoming the strongest force in parliament.

The conservative National Coalition Party, the right-wing populist party The Finns and Marin’s Social Democrats were almost neck and neck in the polls, with the conservatives around former finance minister and opposition leader Petteri Orpo only marginally ahead. “Each of them can be first,” says political scientist Juhana Aunesluoma from the University of Helsinki. “They are so close together that it’s impossible to predict the outcome.”

Marin: “Have experienced extraordinary times”

In the last parliamentary election in 2019, the three parties were separated by less than one percentage point. The Social Democrats narrowly won the election under Marin’s predecessor, Antti Rinne. However, Rinne resigned after just under half a year in office in a dispute with the most important coalition partner, the Center Party.

The five-party centre-left coalition remained intact. From now on, however, it was led by the previous Minister of Transport and Communications, Sanna Marin. The then youngest head of government in the world has since headed a government predominantly dominated by women.

Despite her popularity, she has to fear for her office: Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin at an election campaign event in Helsinki.

Despite her popularity, she has to fear for her office: Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin at an election campaign event in Helsinki.

Image: dpa

Marin, now 37 years old and Prime Minister for over three years, has since led Finland through a trying time. First came the Corona crisis, then the Ukraine war in neighboring Russia, which Finland borders on for a whopping 1,340 kilometers. As a result of the war, Finland decided to apply for NATO membership. Late on Thursday evening, Turkey agreed to accept the Finns as the last member country, paving the way for Finland to join NATO after decades of military freedom from alliances.

Marin recently emphasized again in Parliament that Finland had made historic decisions and mastered major crises during her term in office. “We have seen extraordinary times during this government’s tenure,” she said. Nevertheless, 90 percent of the goals set out in the government program have been achieved.

Politics professor Aunesluoma attests her good work. “It’s basically been crisis management for three years, and I think most people in Finland think the government has done a really good job – especially Sanna Marin personally,” he says. “Your guidance is greatly appreciated.”

But there are also other opinions. Some Finns allegedly criticize Marin’s inappropriate youthful behavior. On their Instagram account For example, Marin combines impressions from the life of a politician with snapshots from private life, around a million people from all over the world are watching her.

“Your Instagram account is really unique for Finland,” says social media expert Essi Pöyry. Marin uses the platform to show her lifestyle and to communicate positive things every day. However, not everyone likes that. Especially since In August 2022, videos of Marin dancing exuberantly appeared on the Internetcritical voices were raised again and again.

Joining NATO hardly played a role in the election campaign

Before the election Sunday, it is ultimately completely open what the future government will look like and who will lead it. According to economist and election expert Juha Tervala, Marin slammed the door on working with the Finns party. The Center Party, currently one of Marin’s coalition partners, has signaled that it no longer wants to govern under the leadership of the social democrat.

Marin could therefore depend on the support of the National Coalition for a majority – a cooperation that is quite common in consensus-oriented Finnish politics. The national coalition could also form a right-wing government with the Finns party.

Joining NATO played no role in the election campaign. The consensus on this is extremely high among the population, the media, experts and the parties, says Aunesluoma – so large that it was hardly possible to gain points over the political opponents.

Rather, domestic political issues were more important, such as state finances, basic and social services, the aging population, health and education. “It’s basically an election about the Finnish welfare state,” says Aunesluoma. There is a feeling that this system has structural problems.

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