Debate over climate change dominates Finnish vote

17 April, 2019, 12:38 | Author: Wade Massey
  • If the Social Democrats win the top spot their leader Antti Rinne would have the first shot at forming a government

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, who as head of state is not involved in government affairs except foreign policy, tweeted on Saturday that he has a "major timing problem" since the vote results clash with a USA-Finland women's ice hockey World Championship final match.

Finland's Social Democratic Party retained a narrow lead to emerge as the top parliamentary election vote-getter on Sunday.

Right behind came the populist Finns Party with 17.5 per cent, while the conservative National Coalition party took the third spot with 17 per cent of votes.

Finns can expect a broad, ineffective coalition government for the next four years as the Social Democrats, who narrowly won weekend elections, focus on keeping the surging anti-immigration populists out, analysts said.

Outgoing Prime Minister Juha Sipila said his Centre Party was the election's "biggest loser", blaming the "difficult economic decisions" his administration made in an attempt to rebalance the economy after a long slump.

Underscoring a growing confidence among the far-right in Europe, anti-immigration parties, including the Finns, have announced plans to join forces after the May 26 European Union election in a move that could give them a major say in how the continent is run.

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 other parties obtaining seats in the new 200-seat Eduskunta - Finland's parliament - are the Swedish People's Party with 4.5 per cent of the votes and 9 seats and the Christian Democrats with 3.9 per cent of the votes and 5 seats.

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Antti Rinne, said Sunday night the Social Democrats held a small lead after most ballots cast in advance were counted: "It's a thrilling situation".

One predicted the high advance turnout and tight poll margins would make this "the liveliest election of the 2000s".

"It's very hard to see that the other parties would say no to the Social Democrats, because then we would be in a situation with Halla-aho trying to form a government and I just don't see that happening", Korpinen said.

The opposition Social Democratic Party, which has traditionally attracted working-class voters, topped a recent poll with 19% voter support.

The Finns' stance on environmental policies, which includes an opposition to a proposed tax on meat consumption, appeals to rural voters in particular who fear soaring fuel costs and resent any efforts to change what they see as the traditional Finnish way of life. Most political parties support government actions to curb global warming.

The Blue Reform, the splinter group formed by the moderate wing of the Finns Party in November 2017, collapsed into political oblivion after failing to win a seat in the Parliament.

Reform has been controversial in Finland and plans to cut costs and boost efficiency have stalled for years, leaving older voters anxious about the future.

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