Finland′s opposition Social Democrats edge ahead in election | News | DW | 14.04.2019
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Finland's opposition Social Democrats edge ahead in election

The center-left Social Democrats, seeking to form the first left-wing government in two decades, have taken an early lead in Finland's general election. Polls also predict strong gains for the main far-right party.

Some 4.5 million Finns headed to the polls Sunday to vote for representatives to the 200-seat Eduskunta parliament.

The ballot is expected to shake up the country's political landscape following a campaign dominated by debates over how to preserve the country's prized welfare system, the costs of combating climate change, and immigration.

What do the polls say?

  • The opposition center-left Social Democratic Party was expected to emerge top, with 18.9 percent support in early counts.
  • That outcome would give party leader Antti Rinne, a former finance minister, the task of finding coalition partners to form the first left-leaning government in two decades.
  • The conservative National Coalition Party, which is in the outgoing center-right governing coalition, was garnering 17.2 percent of the vote with 35.5 percent of ballots counted.
  • Prime Minister Juha Sipila's Center Party did worse than expected, initially looking set to clinch third place with15.4 percent.
  • The nationalist True Finns party, which had been tipped for third place, was on 15.1 percent at early counting.

EU watching

Finland is set to take over the rotating EU presidency on July 1. European capitals are watching the performance of the Finns Party, which saw its support surge in the run-up to the vote. Many observers expect similar euroskeptic and nationalist parties to make strong gains in next month's EU parliamentary elections.

Read more: Euroskeptic, anti-immigrant parties team up for EU election

Watch video 01:48

Focus on climate in Finnish election

What were the dominant campaign issues?

Welfare: The Social Democrats and other parties criticized Sipila's outgoing center-right coalition for implementing welfare cuts in an attempt to reinvigorate the economy. Rinne advocated for increasing taxes and spending to preserve health and social benefits and a world-class education system.

Read more: Finland keeps crown as world's happiest country

Immigration: Only 6.6% of the population is foreign-born, the lowest rate in Western Europe. Until recently, immigration was only a minor election issue. However, the Finns Party has attracted voters from small towns and villages worried about the issue, especially following publicized incidents of alleged sexual assaults by migrants last year. Other party leaders have cautioned against anti-immigrant rhetoric and generalizations about migrants. Rinne supports moderate work-related immigration and taking in some asylum-seekers.

Read more: Climate protection: Where do the EU's right-wing populists stand?

Climate change: Most parties support efforts to combat climate change, but they differed during the campaign on how far to go and at what cost. The Finns Party used the debate as a wedge issue to attract voters skeptical of the costs of further action.

cw,rc/amp (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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