(Helsinki) The centre-right is the winner of Sunday’s legislative elections in Finland, slightly ahead of the nationalist party and then the social democrats of Sanna Marin, who would thus lose his post as prime minister, according to an estimate by radio and television Yle.

According to the projection of the public channel, usually close to the final result, the National Coalition party of Petteri Orpo would obtain the most seats, with 48 deputies, ahead of the anti-immigration party of the Finns with a new record of 46 seats. and the Social Democratic SDP (43). Orpo claimed victory after the announcement of the first projections.

The candidate of the party arriving first traditionally inherits the post of Prime Minister in Finland, provided that he can muster a majority in Parliament.

“It would be a very big victory,” reacted the possible future head of government Petteri Orpo, who had led the polls during the campaign before seeing his lead melt away in the final sprint.

The differences in votes would be even smaller, according to Yle’s estimates: 20.9% for the center right, 20.3% for the far right and 19.7% for the social democrats.

The outgoing Prime Minister has called to wait for the final results. “Let’s wait for the end. I am very grateful to the people who voted en masse for the social democrats, ”she said in front of her rivals on the set of Yle.

The three parties are indeed progressing compared to the last elections in 2019, with a record promised to the nationalists of the Finns party.

“It’s a projection, so let’s take it as such, but it’s a great result,” commented its manager Riikka Purra.

The far right, which is aiming for an unprecedented first place for it, hopes to at least beat its record of 19.05% dating back to 2011, in the wake of the national-populist wave which has crossed Europe in recent years.

“The suspense will last a long time. In 2019 we did better than in the early votes,” responded Riikki Purra, leader of the Party of Finns.

This very close battle for the post of Prime Minister was expected, with a trio given within the margin of error of the latest polls.

These legislative elections in the country of 5.5 million inhabitants coincide with the official entry of the country bordering Russia into NATO, expected in the coming days.

Popular abroad as in Finland, Sanna Marin has established herself as a “rock star prime minister”, but she is more divisive in her country, where she is criticized on public finances and inflation.

Established for more than 20 years in Finnish political life, the Party of Finns has never come out on top so far.

Very offensive on social networks, the training tops the voting intentions of young people. Men are overrepresented in the right-wing electorate, while women vote more left and for Ms. Marin.

“As a young woman, it’s important to have someone I feel close to,” a 26-year-old campaigning student told AFP.

“She made us proud, before people laughed at us, we were an old school party,” said Mo Shimer, a 26-year-old SDP activist.

But many do not carry it in their hearts, analysts point out.

“While exceptionally popular, it also arouses opposition and the political divide has widened,” notes Juho Rahkonen, political scientist at the E2 institute.

The economy is the main angle of attack for the opposition, which denounces in particular the increase in public debt.

“I felt I had to come and vote because ‘rock star’ Marin’s time is running out, she hasn’t done anything good,” says Antti Piispanen, a 30-year-old salesman.

“I think the far-right nationalist party will probably win…unfortunately, so I’m doing my duty to stop them,” said 31-year-old voter Markus Hällsten.

The formation of a government traditionally takes several weeks or even months. Ms. Marin should therefore at least take over the interim next week when Finland officially joins NATO.

Long Swedish – still an official language with Finnish and the first language of around 5% of Finns – Finland was ceded to Russia in 1809.

The “grand duchy” took advantage of the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 to proclaim its independence, at the cost of a civil war between “reds” and “whites”.

Invaded by the USSR in 1939 after the German-Soviet pact, Finland resisted valiantly during the three months of the Winter War. But after the resumption of the conflict in 1941, she ended the war on the side of the vanquished.

At the end of a “friendship” treaty signed in 1948 under pressure from Moscow, Helsinki agreed to stay out of Western military cooperation, in a form of forced neutrality called “Finlandization”.

At the end of the Cold War, Finland joined the European Union and took root in the West, but it was not until the war in Ukraine that it decided to join NATO.

Of the eight main parties, seven are led by women. The country is in the world leader for gender equality.

When Sanna Marin came to power in 2019, becoming the third female prime minister, photos of her alliance of five parties, all led by women, went viral.

The Finnish Parliament was the first in the world to have women MPs, when the country was still Russian.

Today, they represent 47% of the outgoing Parliament.

With 7% of its population born abroad according to the OECD, Finland is one of the least cosmopolitan countries in Europe.

But the acceleration of arrivals favored the emergence of the Party of Finns, whose line hardened after a split in 2017.

Referring to the gang war in neighboring Sweden, the party wants to strengthen immigration policy by taking inspiration from another Nordic neighbor, Denmark, in order to “save Finland” from the “Swedish way”.

The National Coalition sees immigration as a response to an aging population, while Sanna Marin rejects any collaboration with an “openly racist” Party of Finns.

A red-blue alliance would be complicated by economic disagreements, with the right having campaigned against the government’s supposed fiscal irresponsibility.

Known for being a low-key people, Finns were crowned the world’s happiest people in March for the sixth consecutive year, a ranking sponsored by the UN.

With its thousands of lakes and ubiquitous forests, the Nordic country of 5.5 million inhabitants and more than 330,000 square kilometers has a successful social model, high trust in authorities and limited inequalities.

Bound by frost for nearly half the year, Finns can boast another top spot: the number of saunas, which peaks at three million – more than cars.

The Happiness Report, however, came as a surprise at Finland’s first title in 2018: Many locals describe themselves as taciturn and melancholy, confidently watching the outpourings of joy with suspicion.