Reconfigurations happen in Finland’s parliamentary election

A centre-right party and a right-wing party saw the largest gains in the parliamentary election on April 2, 2023. Next up: negotiations to form a government coalition.

After a race in which the three largest parties went down the final stretch polling almost equally, at about 20 percent each, the centre-right National Coalition Party garnered the top result.

It won 48 seats in Finland’s 200-member Parliament, ten more than it got in the previous election, in 2019. The right-wing Finns Party also considered 2023 a triumph, gaining seven seats for a total of 46.

The Social Democratic Party of the outgoing prime minister, Sanna Marin, added three seats, but the total fell short at 43, earning a third-place finish. Nonetheless, she has enjoyed great popularity among a sizeable portion of Finnish voters for much of her time in office, which began in December 2019, just before the Covid-19 pandemic arrived. She has also brought Finland large amounts of positive visibility internationally.

In Finnish parliamentary elections, the biggest vote-magnet candidates receive tens of thousands of votes, but in some districts, candidates can squeak into Parliament with just over 2,000 votes. The nature of the system means that you are not only voting for a person, but that your vote helps the party even if your particular candidate doesn’t get in. Every vote carries a value that is both significant and mathematically appropriate.

Perhaps this is one reason that people get out and vote, keeping voter participation high. Voter turnout in 2023 was 71.9 percent, just 0.2 percentage points less than in 2019. All citizens 18 or over are automatically registered to vote and receive a letter of notification in the post before each election. A total of about 4.5 million people are entitled to vote, including approximately 250,000 Finnish citizens living abroad.

The new Parliament will be 46 percent female, with 92 women and 108 men – the previous edition had 94 women. As of election day, the youngest member of the incoming Parliament is 23, and she is one of seven under 30. The oldest is 71, and he is one of 26 members over 60.

Post-election equations

A woman in a pink vest and beside her a man in a dark blue suit, each with a glass of water on the table in front of them.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (left) and her probable successor in that post, Petteri Orpo, took part in an interview on election night.Photo: Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva

Some political analysts say that the next phase, in which the parties negotiate to form a government coalition, is more interesting than the election itself. It can take weeks.

As the biggest winner, the National Coalition Party, led by Petteri Orpo, gets to initiate the process, and meets with the other parties one at a time to see what agreements they can reach.

Post-election speculation revolves around which political direction the new government coalition will follow. Will the National Coalition Party see eye to eye with the right-wing Finns Party? Or will the National Coalition Party and the Social Democratic Party work together?

Either way, the two large parties in the coalition will need at least one of the smaller parties to join them. The Greens, the Left Alliance and the Centre Party, all of whom sat in the previous coalition with the Social Democratic Party, suffered painful losses this time around: The Greens went from 20 to 13, the Left Alliance from 16 to 11, and the Centre from 31 to 23.

The fifth member of that coalition, the Swedish People’s Party, strong among Finland’s Swedish-speaking population, held steady at nine seats (Swedish is one of Finland’s official languages).

Also in the mix for the upcoming negotiations are the Christian Democrats, who maintained their five seats. The upstart Movement Now has one seat, and the Åland Islands, an autonomous territory that is part of Finland, always have one seat.

By ThisisFINLAND staff, April 3, 2023