Sanna Marin was the most popular prime minister in Finland this century. She was praised for her handling of the Covid pandemic and led her country to join Nato with overwhelming support.
In Sunday’s election, her centre-left Social Democratic party (SDP) increased its vote share and number of MPs. Nonetheless, she and the SDP have been defeated – and Finland is moving to the right.
The leader of the conservative National Coalition party (NCP), Petteri Orpo, is likely to be the next prime minister. And while it is possible he will ultimately form a coalition with the SDP, he may first seek to form a government with the far-right Finns party, which had its best ever election result.
Why did Marin lose?
Not because of a leaked video of her dancing exuberantly that prompted a drugs test (she passed): while that story drew outsized international attention, neither it – nor the spurious subsequent questions about Marin’s character – have been a decisive feature of the campaign. “It made her fans more enthusiastic, and her enemies more critical,” says Jon Henley, the Guardian’s Europe correspondent. “At most, it accentuated the differences.”
By some measures, Marin and the SDP did pretty well: for a governing party to increase its vote share is unusual in Finland, and Marin’s personal popularity was a central part of their pitch to voters.
The SDP added three seats, but the NCP and the Finns gained 17 in Finland’s 200-seat parliament. Meanwhile, the vote for smaller parties in the left-leaning coalition collapsed.
While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a huge issue in Finland – and the reason behind its new membership of Nato – it was not a point of disagreement in the election. Instead, as Marin tacked to the left to shore up the SDP’s support, the right successfully leaned into concerns about Finland’s growing national debt and persuaded voters that it was time to cut social programmes to balance the books. “After the pandemic and the war, the economy has come back to the forefront,” says Henley. [Continue reading…]