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Finland's Social Democrats win slim victory as far right surges

Finland's Social Democrats win slim victory as far right surges”

Finland's leftist Social Democrats and the nationalist Finns Party emerged almost tied to win Sunday's general election, reflecting a mounting sense of insecurity in the Nordic nation over immigration, welfare and climate change.

The biggest loser of the elections was the Centre Party, which received a vote share of 13.8 per cent - 7.3 percentage points smaller than in 2015 - and lost 18 seats in the Parliament.

The center-left Social Democratic Party tops a recent poll with 19% support. Polls show the party ending up in second or third place, meaning it could play a significant role in the next government, which in Finland is typically a coalition of three or four parties.

As part of his anti-austerity manifesto, Social Democrat leader Rinne, a 56-year-old former trade union boss, has pledged to improve conditions for Finland's elderly with a €100 monthly pension boost for retirees on low incomes. "SDP is the prime minister's party", he told supporters in central Helsinki, Reuters reported.

The Finns Party has run a vocal campaign calling for asylum-based immigration to be reduced to nearly zero, and decrying the "climate hysteria" of other parties seeking action against global warming.

"For example the cuts the government has made to education have been very much criticised because education is something that we in Finland very much treasure".

Chairman of The Finns Party Jussi Halla-aho (L) and Chairman of The Social Democratic Party Antti Rinne. But the far-right Finns Party, led by hardline MEP Jussi Halla-aho, saw a surge in support in recent months during their anti-immigration dominated campaign, urging people to "Vote for some borders".

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The left-wing party leads Finland's two main opinion polls with about 19 percent of the vote, having campaigned against the steep cost-cutting of Centre Party Prime Minister Juha Sipila and his Finance Minister Petteri Orpo - leader of the conservative National Coalition Party.

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.

Rinne has been a staunch opponent of the National Coalition's austerity policies over the past four years. Finnish governments, which need 101 seats, are usually coalitions and the Social Democrats will be leading their first in 16 years.

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.

A relatively strong showing by the nationalist Finns party, which scored 15.4%, could further complicate coalition talks, with most party leaders ruling out any cooperation with them.

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

At stake in Finland is the future shape of the country's welfare system, a pillar of the social model across the Nordics, which the leftists want to preserve through tax hikes and the center-right wants to see streamlined because of rising costs.



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