Thursday, 25 April, 2019

Ruling parties slide in tight Finland vote

Antti Rinne is leader of the Social Democrats Antti Rinne is leader of the Social Democrats
Jeannette Daniel | 17 April, 2019, 12:39

Finland's leftist Social Democrats won a razor-thin victory in Sunday's general election, holding off the far-right Finns Party which surged on an anti-immigration agenda.

The preliminary returns gave the conservative National Coalition Party 37 seats and the Center Party that was senior partner in the outgoing government 32.

And Petteri Orpo, leader of the conservative National Coalition Party and co-architect of the government's savings programme, has denounced the Social Democratic Party's anti-austerity plans as "irresponsible". "It seems to me this will be a race between us and the NCP".

The far-right nationalist Finns Party secured the second position with 17.6 per cent of votes in favour, after more than 97 per cent of votes were counted. The National Coalition, in turn, came to within 0.5 percentage points of the Finns Party, becoming the third largest party with 38 seats in the Parliament. Centrist leader Juha Sipila said his party would remain open in whether to join the government and the decision would depend on the negotiation.

Officials said some 300,000 advance votes remained uncounted when polls closed at 1700GMT. "After we've seen the answers, we can see who we should likely try to form a government with", he said according to Helsingin Sanomat.

While Mr Halla-aho said he would be interested in the post of interior minister, in charge of immigration, he was also upbeat in interviews at the prospect of being in opposition. "The Social Democratic Party's values are very important, it's the glue that will hold the government together".

They will head a government for the first time in 16 years, though it has been a junior coalition member since then.

Unlike Finland's Social Democrats as well as populists in the south of Europe who resonate with voters angry over slow economic growth in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, the Finns call for fiscal restraint. The eurosceptics won 39 after campaigning on the message that the Finnish government should overdo its efforts to combat climate change.

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Finns Party leader Halla-aho sought to dispel accusations that he hoped to keep his party in opposition after the election, so as to avoid facing the tough decisions of being in power.

Some 1.5 million Finns have already cast their ballots during a week of advance voting this month.

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The Swedish People's Party and Christian Democrats both maintained their current number of seats in the Parliament.

Pre-election policy debates over what and how much the Nordic country should do revealed disagreement among voters.

Voters were choosing between 2,500 candidates from 19 political parties and movements for the Eduskunta legislature's 200 seats.

Voters in Finland are casting ballots in a parliamentary election Sunday after climate change dominated the campaign, even overshadowing topics like reforming the nation's generous welfare model.

The center-left Social Democratic Party tops a recent poll with 19% support.

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