New NATO member Finland swears in government regarded as country’s most right-wing in decades

Finland’s new Prime Minister Petteri Orpo, left, stands with some of his cabinet members,on the occasion of a complimentary visit to President of Finland Sauli Niinisto at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Tuesday June 20, 2023. (Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva via AP)

HELSINKI — Finland, which recently became NATO’s 31st member, swore in a new coalition government Tuesday that is considered the most right-wing one in the Nordic country’s modern history.

President Sauli Niinistö appointed the 19-member Cabinet of Prime Minister Petteri Orpo, the leader of the conservative National Coalition Party, after Finnish lawmakers approved the lineup of ministers.


The National Coalition Party won the most seats in an April 2 parliamentary election. Following seven weeks of coalition talks, the party announced a deal to form a government with three other parties, including the far-right, euroskeptic Finns Party.

The two junior partners in the coalition are the Christian Democrats and the Swedish People’s Party of Finland.

Due to the dominance of the two senior partner parties, Finnish media described Orpo’s government as “national conservative” in nature.

The four parties hold a majority of 108 seats in the 200-member Parliament. Political analysts said the new Cabinet was Finland’s most right-wing government since World War II.

Finland’s economy was the central issue in April’s election. While campaigning, conservative candidates accused the center-left Cabinet of former Prime Minister Sanna Marin of excessive spending, contributing to rising state debt and other economic problems.

Despite Marin’s personal popularity and high international profile, voters shifted their allegiances away from her Social Democratic Party and to parties on the political right. The Social Democrats finished third in the election, after the National Coalition Party and the Finns Party.

Orpo, a 53-year-old veteran politician, is a former finance and interior minister and has headed the NCP, Finland’s main conservative party, since 2016.

The party’s other key Cabinet posts include Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen and Defense Minister Antti Häkkänen, who is the NCP’s vice chair.

Häkkänen’s post is particularly significant since Finland joined NATO in April. The country of 5.5 million, which shares a long border with Russia, is in the process of integrating its military systems and infrastructure into the alliance.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted Finland to abandon decades of military non-alignment and to seek NATO membership together with Sweden in May 2022.

Under Marin’s leadership, Finland was one of Ukraine’s most vocal and active European supporters in terms of military and civilian aid.

Häkkänen offered assurances that the new government would not change Finland’s position toward Ukraine.

“Finland’s support to Ukraine will continue to be very strong. There will be no changes to this policy,” he told The Associated Press on the sidelines of the new Cabinet’s first news conference.

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