What impact will shift to the right in Finland have?

The conservative National Coalition Party has won a narrow victory in Finland’s parliamentary elections, securing 20.8 percent of the vote, just ahead of the right-wing populist Finns Party with 20.1 percent and Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Social Democrats with 19.9 percent. The main issues in the election campaign were public finances and the national debt. Commentators focus on the advance of the right and its consequences.

Göteborgs-Posten (SE) /

It’s all about the economy

Marin’s charisma was not enough to solve the country’s most pressing problems, Göteborgs-Posten sums up:

“When push comes to shove, no star status in the world can solve the interest rate crisis that the country is now facing. Finland has a high level of national debt by Nordic standards, which grew even higher during the pandemic. ... Despite Sanna Marin’s international stature Finland has chosen the boring guy in a suit who talks about GDP trends and growth curves. ... Sanna Marin may have given hope to the European left, but when it comes to saving the Finnish economy that is of little use.”

Karin Pihl
The Guardian (GB) /

A harbinger of less optimistic times

Marin will be missed, says The Guardian:

“She remained a hugely popular figure both domestically and abroad, while pursuing an authentically social democratic and egalitarian agenda. Having assumed leadership of a coalition in which all five parties were led by women, she was accomplished in her handling of the Covid pandemic and the crisis that followed Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. And like her onetime political ally, the former New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, she became a role model for aspirant and actual female politicians. Her departure from office in itself feels like a harbinger of less optimistic and expansive times.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Sweden as a deterrent

Finland will shift to the right, the Süddeutsche Zeitung is sure:

“The question is how far to the right. It would be a terrible pity if the self-dwarfism of Northern Europe continued here in Finland. Since last autumn Sweden has had a conservative coalition that is strongly influenced by the right-wing populist Sweden Democrats. They should actually act as a deterrent for Orpo: the government in Stockholm presents an especially pathetic picture of dilettantism polemic squabbling and climate policy ignorance.”

Alex Rühle
Novaya Gazeta Europe (RU) /

Things will remain the same in foreign policy

Novaya Gazeta Evropa expects little change in Finnish diplomacy:

“Finland’s relationship with the EU and Russia is unlikely to change much with the new ruling party. The National Coalition Party is a centre-right, pro-European party. ... However changes of course may be possible if The Finns, who make no secret of their Eurosceptic stance, manage to enter the governing coalition. There is no reason for any major changes in the stance towards Russia. The overwhelming majority of Finns support both joining Nato and Ukraine in the war — and 90 percent consider a normalisation of relations with Russia impossible under the current circumstances.”

Denis Lewen
Denik N (CZ) /

Nato accession is her key legacy

Marin’s election defeat coincides with Finland’s Nato accession, which she initiated, Deník N reminds readers:

“Nato accession is perhaps the most remarkable legacy of the outgoing prime minister. In this turn towards the Alliance we also see an example of a ‘collision with reality’ in Finland. Right up to shortly before the Russian invasion of Ukraine the public there was divided over Nato; even Marin didn’t see joining the Alliance as a priority. But the war considerably changed the attitude of the public and the politicians.”

Ondřej Štindl
Yle (FI) /

Cutting back is popular

A majority of the electorate voted for austerity, says Yle:

“The conservative National Coalition Party advocated cuts in the election campaign. The election results show that the national debt is the biggest concern for more than a fifth of Finns. The flip side of the austerity policy an inevitable reduction in state benefits and tighter living standards for Finns who live off social security. ... For the first time the right-wing populist party The Finns has secured over 20 percent of the vote. ... The party’s line on economic policy is not very clear, but it promises to reduce unnecessary expenditures. The party is more willing to accept a shrinking of the Finnish economy than to bring in workers from abroad.”

Maria Steenroos
Turun Sanomat (FI) /

The next weeks will be tense

The contrasting positions on fiscal policy will make coalition building difficult, Turun Sanomat explains:

“There are major differences over the conclusions to be drawn from the current situation. The right demands adjustment measures, the left rejects cuts in social security and social benefits. ... This spring remains very tense politically, because the negotiations to form a government are expected to be difficult. None of the parties has won a mandate with an overwhelming majority, and at least two of the three major parties will have to find a consensus after the election. The parties have already ruled out [certain] potential government partners, so the options are becoming limited.”