Election preview: Finland

Finland also goes to the polls on Sunday. Centre-left prime minister Sanna Marin, who succeeded her colleague, Antti Rinne, in December 2019 after he resigned in the aftermath of a strike by postal workers, is seeking election in her own right; the signs are that she will probably be successful.

War in Ukraine has put Finland in the spotlight: it shares a long border and a long history with Russia, and having given up its long neutrality it is now on the point of joining NATO. But unlike Bulgaria, which we looked at yesterday, it has not seen its party system disrupted as a result; solidarity with Ukraine is very much a bipartisan position.

The last election, four years ago, saw nine different parties win seats.* The three leaders were very close together in the high teens: the centre-left Social Democrats with 17.7% of the vote and 40 of the 200 seats; the far-right True Finns with 17.5% and 39 seats; and the centre-right National Coalition with 17.0% and 38 seats.

No-one much wanted to team up with the True Finns, and most of the other parties preferred to deal with the centre-left. Social Democrat leader Rinne formed a coalition with another four parties – the agrarian Centre Party (31 seats), the Greens (20), the far-left Left Alliance (16) and the Swedish People’s Party (nine) – to yield a total of 116 seats, a majority of 32.

If the opinion polls are right (and in Finland they’re usually pretty good), the same three parties are going to again finish at the top, with not much between them: National Coalition may perhaps have a slight edge, but that really only matters for bragging rights. The more important thing from Marin’s perspective is that her coalition partners are all holding their ground; Centre and the Greens may be down a point or two, but she’s got enough of a buffer for that not to matter.

It looks as if, despite their new geopolitical circumstances, Finnish voters haven’t changed their minds much since 2019. With no obvious need for anyone to look around for new partners – even Left Alliance, traditionally a strong opponent of NATO, seems to be content with the government’s approach – it’s most likely that the same coalition will be reassembled after the election, no doubt with a bit of haggling at the margins.

One report, however, suggests that Centre is keen to jump ship; if that happens in conjunction with National Coalition topping the poll, there may be an attempt to construct a right-of-centre government. But it’s hard to see how it could work without breaching the cordon sanitaire around the True Finns. Grand coalition between the centre-right and the Social Democrats would also be an option: it has happened before, most recently between 2011 and 2015.

Voting is D’Hondt proportional within each of 13 multi-member constituencies; that can occasionally throw up anomalies, but generally the relationship between votes and seats is very close. Polls close at 3am on Monday, eastern Australian time, so results should be available Monday morning.


* Or ten if you count the single representative of the Åland Islands, who generally votes with the Swedish People’s Party.


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