Shortly before joining NATO, Finland is electing a new parliament today. Three parties have a chance of becoming the strongest force in the EU's northernmost country.
The conservative National Coalition Party of ex-finance minister and opposition leader Petteri Orpo is slightly favoured. In the most recent polls, however, it was only very slightly ahead of the right-wing populist party The Finns and Prime Minister Sanna Marin's Social Democrats. In the last parliamentary election in 2019, the three parties were separated by less than one percentage point - at that time with the best outcome for the Social Democrats.
The polling stations are open today until 8:00 p.m. (local time/7:00 p.m. CEST). Immediately afterwards, a first election trend based on early votes is expected. There could still be a lot to do with these first numbers in the course of the evening. A preliminary final result should be available around midnight on Monday night.
Close race expected on election day
Marin has been Prime Minister of Finland since the end of 2019. The 37-year-old leads a five-party centre-left coalition and is valued by many Finns. Her opponents, on the other hand, accuse her government of having boosted government spending.
Who will end up being the strongest party was completely open before the election Sunday: Orpo's Conservatives received 19.8 percent of the votes in the last pre-election poll by the Finnish radio station Yle, the Finns Party around its leader Riikka Purra 19.5 percent percent and Marin's Social Democrats to 18.7 percent.
The leader of the party with the most votes traditionally gets the first chance to form a new government in Finland. However, long and tough coalition negotiations are expected, since several parties have ruled out cooperation with the right-wing populists. For a majority, the winner of the election is likely to depend on one other of the large parties and at least one of the medium-sized and smaller parties.
Finland soon to be a NATO member
In May 2022, under the impression of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, Finland had applied for admission to NATO together with Sweden. After the recent approval of Hungary and Turkey, all 30 NATO members have ratified the accession, which means that only formalities are still outstanding for Finnish membership. According to NATO information, Finland will officially become a member in the coming days.
However, joining NATO played no role in the election campaign. In general, there is great agreement in Finland in this respect, which is why the parties were hardly able to gain points over their opponents on the issue. Instead, the main focus was on domestic issues such as increased government spending.