(Helsinki) The popular Social Democratic Prime Minister Sanna Marin will try to win a second term against her right-wing and far-right rivals in legislative elections which promise to be very close on Sunday in Finland.
The 37-year-old leader, who has acquired international fame in four years, comes in third position in the latest polls but in a pocket handkerchief with the leader of the National Coalition (center right), Petteri Orpo, and the leader of the Party Finns, anti-immigration and eurosceptic, Riikka Purra.
The post of prime minister in Finland traditionally falls to the leader of the party that came first, making the final order of arrival crucial.
According to the latest opinion poll published Thursday, the National Coalition would come first, at 19.8%, ahead of the party of the Finns at 19.5%, then the SDP of Ms. Marin, at 18.7%, tiny differences which are within the margin of error.
“It’s a suspenseful situation and it’s hard to say at this stage which party will be first on the day of the vote,” said Tuomo Turja of the Taloustutkimus pollster.
The Party of Finns has already been in government before a split in 2017 which saw a more radical line imposed.
But if he came in first on Sunday, it would be a first that could see him beat his electoral record (19.05% in 2011). And one more storm on the European political scene.
Unknown, even to a good part of the Finns, when she came to power at the end of 2019, Sanna Marin has built a worldwide reputation, with her title – since lost – of the youngest leader in the world.
Having become head of government after the resignation of her comrade Antti Rinne, this is the first time that she has led her camp in the electoral battle.
Haloed by the status of the most popular prime minister in the 21st century, she also has a much more contrasting image at home than abroad.
“Sanna Marin is a divisive figure. She has fans like a rock star, but on the other hand, there are a lot of people who don’t support her, ”says Marko Junkkari, political journalist at the reference daily Helsingin Sanomat.
His government coalition of five parties, made up of the Social Democrats, the Center, the Greens, the Left Alliance and a Swedish-speaking party, has been struggling for several months.
The centrist formation has already warned that it would refuse to renew the outgoing alliance.
Sanna Marin is attacked by the opposition on the debt which increased by nearly 10 points of GDP during his mandate.
“The forecast is very bad. Our public finances will collapse and this will lead to the erosion of the foundations of our welfare state,” Petteri Orpo, who advocates a savings plan of 6 billion euros (8.8 billion euros), told AFP. Canadian dollars).
All three major parties are in a position to improve on their 2019 score, but the biggest gain since last summer has come from the Party of Finns, which has capitalized on anti-immigration sentiment and surges in inflation.
The party has made neighboring Sweden a foil, pointing to its interminable war on immigrant gangs, in a Finland where the share of foreign-born residents remains among the lowest in Europe.
“We don’t want to follow Sweden’s path. We highlight the effects of a dangerous immigration policy,” Riikka Purra told AFP.
His party sees an exit from the EU as a long-term goal and wants to push back Finland’s carbon neutrality target, currently set for 2035.
Negotiations to form a government promise to be difficult, in this election marked by a record share of women party leaders – seven out of eight.
Once a heavyweight in Finnish politics, the Center party fell from its first formation in 2015 to its historic low, after having been in the executives of the right and then of the left for eight years.
Even in the – probable – case of a pitiful score, his choice of alliance promises to be crucial, because without him the right and the far right have little chance of building a majority.
Another option favored by some analysts is a left-right unity government.
“Currently, the most likely scenario is a blue-red government based on the National Coalition and the SDP,” Tuomo Turja said.
The election precedes by a few days a date which will be historic for Finland, with an entry into NATO which could take place next week.
But the electoral result is unlikely to derail the process, with all the major parties now advocating entry into the Atlantic Alliance, a seesaw caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.