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Finnish PM Stubb concedes election defeat to opposition Center Party

Finland seems set for a change of government after preliminary election results showed the opposition Center Party in the lead. IT millionaire Juha Sipila (right) is likely to become the country's next prime minister.

Incumbent Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb (pictured left above with Sipila) on Sunday conceded defeat in general elections, congratulating the opposition Center Party on its presumed victory.

"It seems as though the Center has won. Congratulations," Stubb told Finnish public radio and television broadcaster YLE.

Stubb made his announcement after some 70 percent of votes had been counted, with final results expected later in the evening.

If the victory of the Center Party is confirmed, it would mean that its leader, 53-year-old IT millionaire Juha Sipila will replace the conservative Stubb, who has headed a four-party centrist coalition since June 2014.

The liberal-agrarian Center Party took 46 seats in the 200-seat parliament, ahead of Stubb's National Coalition Party and the Social Democrats - currently coalition partners - which each looked likely to take 37 seats.

The right-wing, anti-immigration and euroskeptic Finns Party, which is opposed to EU-led bailouts and would like to see Greece leave the eurozone, seemed likely to take 35 seats.

Long coalition talks expected

If Sipila is elected, his first task would be to choose his coalition partners, a process that is likely to take several weeks.

Timo Soini KIMMO MANTYLA/AFP/Getty Images

Finns Party leader Timo Soini campaigned on a nationalist platform

He has said he would be open to including the Finns Party in a coalition, and analysts say he may prefer the nationalist party to the center-left Social Democrats when building a coalition.

Campaigning for the election was dominated by economic issues such as unemployment, benefit cuts and the rising national debt, with #link:18392317:many Finns dissatisfied at Stubb's failure# to pull the eurozone country out of a three-year economic slump.

Finland has seen its two economic mainstays - the forestry sector and the technology industry - shrink dramatically, while unemployment stands at 9.2 percent - the highest level since 2003.

The decline of one-time cellphone giant Nokia has been a major factor in Finland's economic woes, along with reduced trade with its neighbor, Russia, which is struggling under sanctions imposed by the European Union and the USA.

tj/bk (dpa, AFP, Reuters)