Social Democrats lead in Finland elections

15 April, 2019, 11:57 | Author: Wade Massey
  • Finland goes to polls as leftists tipped for next government

At the stake in the election is the future shape of Finland's welfare system, a corner of its social model, which the leftist want to preserve through tax hikes and the centre-right wants to see streamlined because of rising costs.

Social Democrat leader Antti Rinne could become Finland's first leftist prime minister in two decades. The populist Finns Party, however, is polling in second place with 16% support and has been gathering momentum among voters who find the climate change sacrifices proposed by other political parties too daunting.

With 99.5 percent of votes counted, the co-ruling Centre Party of Prime Minister Juha Sipila and the centre-right National Coalition stood at 13.8 percent and 17.0 percent, respectively.

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However, in a tacit acknowledgement that the public mood was against further belt-tightening, Orpo has insisted that the economy is now strong enough to allow for some more generous public spending.

About 36% of voting-age Finns cast their votes in a seven-day advance voting period that ended on Tuesday.

Finland's parliamentary election results show the Social Democratic Party (SDP) winning with 17.7% of the votes, according to CNN's local affiliate Italehti.

With the European parliament election less than two months away, the Finnish ballot is also being watched in Brussels.

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With the Social Democrats, Green League and Left Alliance holding 76 of the 200 seats in the Parliament, the Social Democrats will likely have to open the door to either the National Coalition or the Centre Party.

The growing Finns Party ratings, on the other hand, appear to be driven by new supporters who have not voted in the past.

At a Finns Party rally on the eve of the vote in Myyrmaki, a disadvantaged suburb of the capital, a crowd of people, young and old, clamoured around party leader Jussi Halla-aho, asking for autographs and congratulating him on the campaign.

Last month Prime Minister Sipila dissolved his cabinet after failing to steer through parliament a long-fought plan to reform the country's health and social care system.

Antti Rinne's close victory will make negotiations to form a governing coalition particularly hard, not least because the major parties have all expressed strong reservations about joining a government with the Finns Party, whose policies took a further lurch to the right after Halla-aho became leader in 2017.

Immigration also became a hot election topic, despite Finland being western Europe's most homogenous country with a foreign-born population of just 6.6%.

Meanwhile the Finns Party, which won 39 seats, had focused nearly entirely on an anti-immigration agenda under the leadership of hardline MEP Jussi Halla-aho, who also decried the "climate hysteria" of the other parties.

In January, outrage over highly publicised reports of a string of alleged sexual assaults by foreign men led to a surge in support for the Finns Party, who have pledged to drastically cut immigration and tighten asylum rules.

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