Prime Minister Sanna Marin Marin has made headlines for her hard line on Russia as well as a controversy over partying / © AFP/File
Prime Minister Sanna Marin, centre-right National Coalition Party leader Petteri Orpo, and far-right head Riikka Purra are the top contenders for the post of prime minister in Finland's general election on Sunday.
- Polarising leader -
In power since 2019, Marin has become an icon of feminist politics, making headlines for her hard line on Russia as well as a controversy over partying.
But she was little known in Finland before her meteoric rise to the top echelons of politics.
She was the world's youngest-serving democratically elected leader when she became prime minister at age 34.
Seen as one of the figureheads of the young European guard, her name is already being mentioned for top jobs in Brussels should she lose Sunday's election.
In her campaign, Marin has defended her economic track record against the conservative National Coalition Party's calls for austerity measures.
With Finland entering a recession at the end of last year, Marin insists that now is the time to stimulate the economy and not cut spending.
Navigating the Covid-19 pandemic and Finland's NATO application while keeping her quarrelling five-party coalition government in check has shaped Marin into a pragmatic leader.
While some view her as a strong, unwavering prime minister, others say her partying scandals make her unfit for office.
Marin grew up in council housing in the southern Finnish town of Pirkkala with her mother and her mother's female partner.
She was the first in her family to go to university, earning a master's degree in Administrative Sciences.
- Gentle conservative -
National Coalition Party chair Petteri Orpo Orpo has been described amiable and calm / © Lehtikuva/AFP
Orpo, the 53-year-old head of the centre-right National Coalition Party, is the longest-serving politician of the three main contenders.
He was first elected to parliament in 2007 and has served three times as a cabinet minister.
Orpo has a master's degree in political science from the University of Turku with a major in economics, which has shined through in his party's campaign.
"The most important thing the National Coalition wants to change in Finland is that we stop increasing debt," Orpo told AFP during a recent campaign rally.
The National Coalition has attacked Marin's government for what it deems an irresponsible rise in public debt, and wants to cut spending by six billion euros if elected.
Orpo has been described as amiable and calm, though some have questioned how the father of two has lasted so long in the fiery world of politics.
While that calm usually plays in his favour in heated election debates, Orpo can get put on the back foot by more assertive public speakers like Marin.
In October, he was accused of belittling women and had to apologise after referring to Marin and Finance Minister Annika Saarikko's "shrieking" in a debate.
While Marin has ruled out forming a government with what she calls the "openly racist" populist Finns Party, Orpo has said he will keep his options open.
Despite his party's differences with the Finns Party on immigration, the EU and climate, they still "have a lot of things in common," he said.
Orpo will likely play a central role in forming the next government, as both the Finns Party and the Social Democrats will need him to build a majority.
- Vegetarian nationalist -
Finns Party chair Riikka Purra warned against environmental degradation as well as immigration / © Lehtikuva/AFP
With her trademark green smoothies, Purra is a stark contrast to her predecessor as head of the nationalist anti-immigration Finns Party.
Before she took over in 2021, the party was led by soft-spoken gun hobbyist Jussi Halla-aho, whose controversial writings got him convicted of inciting ethnic hatred.
Purra, a 45-year-old mother of two, has an Instagram account dedicated to her plant-based diet, whole foods and raw juices.
After her mother died when she was 12 years old, Purra became concerned about environmental issues as a teenager, worried about overconsumption and the degradation of nature.
She later took an interest in Halla-aho's writings, saying she believed that negative aspects of immigration were treated with too much indifference in Finland.
The eurosceptic Finns Party has campaigned for a hard line on immigration, pointing a finger at neighbouring Sweden's woes with gang shootings and bombings, and laying the blame on immigrants.
Purra told public broadcaster Yle that she had been harassed as a teenager by people with immigrant backgrounds, which shaped her opinions.