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Finns vote in close elections; the young leader seeks re-election

HELSINKI– Polling stations opened in Finland on Sunday, where three parties were expected to be in a close race as Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Social Democrats battle for a second term as head of government.

More than 2,400 candidates from 22 parties were vying for the 200 seats in the Nordic country’s parliament, the Eduskunta.

Marin, who at 37 is one of Europe’s youngest female leaders, has won praise for her cabinet’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and for her leading role alongside President Sauli Niinistö, in defense of Finland’s successful bid for NATO membership. His vocal support for Ukraine over the past year has increased his international visibility.

“Of course we hope that the Social Democrats will win this election… It’s so important because we want to remain an open society. We also want to work together internationally. We want to build a better green and sustainable future where people have the same opportunities in life,” Marin told The Associated Press while campaigning in central Helsinki on Saturday.

Marin remains popular in his country, but his party’s views on the Finnish economy, which have become the main campaign theme, have been challenged by two main opponents: the centre-right National Coalition Party led by Petteri Orpo and the right-wing populist party The Finns. , led by Riikka Purra.

“The most important thing in the next government is to fix our economy, stimulate economic growth, balance the public economy. And the second very important issue is to build NATO-Finland,” Orpo told the AP at a campaign event in Espoo, just outside the capital, on Saturday.

Riikka Purra stressed that Finns would focus on shaping Finland’s migration, climate, criminal and energy policies if the populist party becomes a partner in the next government.

“And we also want to strengthen our attitude towards the European Union,” Purra said at a campaign event in the municipality of Kirkkonummi, his home district about 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of the city. Helsinki.

Recent polls have indicated that each of the three parties could get around 20% of the vote. If that happened, no party would be able to form a government on its own; whoever wins the most votes is expected to start talks in the coming days on forming a government coalition.

Finland, which is expected to join NATO in the coming weeks, is a member of the European Union with a population of 5.5 million.

Polls close at 5:00 p.m. GMT (12:00 p.m. Eastern). The first results are expected by midnight.

ABC News

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