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faced with the push from the far right, high-risk legislative elections for Sanna Marin

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Finland votes on Sunday for a close general election, where Social Democrat Prime Minister Sanna Marin will try to stay in power against her right-wing and far-right rivals.

Stop or again? The popular Social Democratic Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, will try to snatch a second term against her right-wing and far-right rivals in legislative elections which promise to be very tight on Sunday April 2, 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 traditionally falls in Finland to the leader of the party that came first, making the final order of arrival crucial. According to the latest opinion poll published on Thursday, the National Coalition would come in first, at 19.8%, ahead of the party of the Finns at 19.5%, then the SDP of Sanna Marin, at 18.7%, minute differences which are within the margin of error.

“It is a situation full of suspense and it is difficult to say at this stage which party will be first on the day of the vote”, underlines Tuomo Turja, of the Taloustutkimus polling institute.

“Sanna Marin is a divisive figure”

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 which 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, on the strength of 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.

Crowned with the status of most popular Prime Minister in the 21ste century, it 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 plenty of people who don’t support her,” says Marko Junkkari, political journalist at the benchmark 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 forecasts are 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, told AFP. euros.

Anti-immigration sentiment and inflationary surges

All three major parties are poised to improve on their 2019 score, but the biggest gain since last summer has come from the Finns party, 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 point out the effects of a dangerous immigration policy,” Riikka Purra told AFP.

His party sees leaving 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 went 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 extreme 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,” said Tuomo Turja.

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 not likely to derail the process, all the major parties now being advocates of entry into the Atlantic Alliance, a shift caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

With AFP

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