Finland's Social Democrats win first place in advance voting

Elias Hubbard
April 15, 2019

Finland's leftist Social Democrats and the nationalist Finns Party appeared tied to win Sunday's general election, with almost all votes counted, reflecting a mounting sense of insecurity in the Nordic nation over immigration and welfare. The victors, led by Antti Rinne, 56, a former trade union chief, won 40 seats opposing the austerity of the previous centre-right government.

But the far-right Finns Party, led by hardline MEP Jussi Halla-aho, has seen a surge in support in recent months during an anti-immigration dominated campaign, urging people to "Vote for some borders".

The Social Democrats' Antti Rinne has previously said his party would find it "very difficult" to enter a coalition with the Finns Party. Aware the public mood has turned against any further belt-tightening, the Centre Party of incumbent Prime Minister Juha Sipila and his centre-right governing partner the National Coalition Party, have insisted the economy is now strong enough to allow for an easing of austerity.

Palestinian ministers have to retake oath Palestinian ministers have been sworn in for a second time after a lawyer noticed that the oath they had taken... "The Social Democratic Party's values are very important, it's the glue that will hold the government together".

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

Tipped to win, the opposition Social Democrats scored 17.7 percent, while their eurosceptic Finns Party rivals were at 17.5 percent, according to final results from the justice ministry.

"For the first time since 1999 we are the largest party in Finland ..."

As required by Finnish law, election officials asked the first voter to confirm the ballot box was empty before it was locked and voting could begin.

Finns Party leader Halla-aho has 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.

"You will be the next prime minister", one woman assured him.

This could make the negotiations to build a government coalition particularly tricky.

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.

Finnish governments are typically a coalition of three or four parties that form the minimum 101-seat majority in parliament.

Finland has a rapidly ageing population and declining birth rate, and the question of how to fund the country's generous welfare state in future has been a key election battleground. Immigration became a hot election topic despite Finland being western Europe's most homogenous country with a foreign-born population of just 6.6 percent.

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.

Polls close at 8:00 pm (1700 GMT), with all votes provisionally counted by 9:45 pm (1845 GMT).

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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