Finland’s progressive Prime Minister Sanna Marin has conceded defeat as her ruling social democratic party fell after two right-wing parties both won more seats in parliament in national elections on Sunday.

The National Coalition Party (NCP), which campaigned on cutting government spending and reducing the national debt, won 20.8% of the vote, while the nationalist, anti-immigration Finns Party won 20.1%.
Marin’s Social Democratic Party (SDP) was supported by 19.9% of voters, but the outgoing prime minister noted in her concession speech that the party won three more seats in Eduskunta, the Finnish parliament.”Democracy has spoken,” Marin said. “We have gained support, we have gained more seats. That is an excellent achievement, even if we did not finish first today.”

The NCP now holds 48 seats in the parliament while the Finns have 46. The SDP holds 43 seats.

Petteri Orpo, the leader of the NDP, is now tasked with forming a new government and is considered likely to work closely with the Finns and its leader, Riikka Purra.

“Observers say the result means a power shift in Finland’s political scene as the nation is now likely to get a new center-right government with nationalist tones,” reported Al Jazeera.

Marin has served as prime minister since 2019 and has won praise from progressives around the world for leading the country through the Covid pandemic by promptly invoking the Emergency Powers Act to boost healthcare and social welfare spending and for her vocal support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion last year.

The prime minister has also been a strong supporter of Finland’s bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which is expected to be finalized on Tuesday.

“Sanna Marin, like Jacinda Ardern, will be missed in global politics,” peace and conflict research professor Ashok Swain of Sweden’s Uppsala University told CNBC, referring to New Zealand’s former progressive prime minister.

The Finns—with whom Orpo has expressed a willingness to cooperate despite Purra’s opposition to Finland’s 2035 target for carbon neutrality and to immigration, including work-based immigration to help fill job vacancies—have advocated for leaving the European Union and have been condemned as “openly racist” by Marin.

Both right-wing parties have been critical of public spending under Marin, including funding for education and pensions. Marin has argued that heavy spending to fund the country’s health service, schools, and social welfare programs are crucial for economic growth, and the United Nations’ annual World Happiness Report has found Finland to be the happiest country in the world for six years in a row, with researchers pointing to the government’s capacity for delivering a wide range of public services as a contributing factor.

“Everybody has access to the basics,” one Finnish woman, Liisi Hatinen toldThe Washington Post of Finland’s success in the annual study last year. “These programs are well thought out and work.”

Finland’s elections were the latest in a European country to usher in a right-wing government recently. Far-right Christian and xenophobic parties formed a coalition in Sweden after elections last September and promptly shut down the country’s environmental ministry, and Giorgia Meloni of the Brothers of Italy, a party with fascist roots, became Italy’s prime minister last fall.