Opposition in Finland wins local elections, seen as test for PM’s party

Photo: AP Election officials count votes at the Finlandia House in Helsinki, 13 June 2021.

An opposition center-right party came top in Sunday’s local election in Finland, surpassing the PM Sanna Marin’s ruling Social Democratic Party, news wires reported.  With all votes counted in the Nordic nation’s municipal election, initial results showed on Monday that the conservative National Coalition Party had taken 21.4% of votes nationwide, while the Social Democrats took 17.7% and centrist government member Center Party 14.9% respectively.

“This was a victory with sovereign performance for the National Coalition Party,” political science researcher Emilia Palonen at the University of Helsinki told The Associated Press. “National Coalition has traditionally been successful, above all, in urban areas. Now the party has got new seats on many councils in small towns run by the Center Party.”

The vote to renew local councils in Finland’s more than 300 municipalities, with some 35,000 candidates running from the northern Lapland region to the autonomous territory of Aland Islands in the south, is viewed as a key indication of parties’ popularity ahead of the country’s 2023 parliamentary election.

The elections were the first for Marin (35)  as leader of both the government and her party. “The result was not as good as I had expected,” Marin told reporters late Sunday, adding that she was particularly disappointed with the low voter turnout of 55.1%.

The populist Finns Party saw its support rising 5.6 percentage points from the previous election, to 14.5% of all votes.

The main themes dominating the local election were the government’s planned social and health care reforms in the municipalities, taxation and the implications of Finland’s Covid-19 exit strategy.

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