Finland's Social Democrats win slim victory as far right surges
Updated 09:51, 15-Apr-2019
CGTN
00:41

Finland's leftist Social Democrats won a razor-thin victory in Sunday's general election, holding off the far-right Finns Party which surged on an anti-immigration agenda.

With 100 percent of ballots counted, the Social Democrats, led by 56-year-old former trade union boss Antti Rinne, picked up 40 seats in parliament, after campaigning on a ticket of fierce opposition to the austerity imposed by the previous Center-right government of Prime Minister Juha Sipila.

Meanwhile the Finns Party, which won 39 seats, had focused almost 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.

Only 0.2 percentage points separated the two parties – in a heavily splintered political landscape where the Social Democrats were the biggest party with 17.7 percent of votes.

They will head a government for the first time in 16 years, though it has been a junior coalition member since then.

Chairman of The Finns Party Jussi Halla-aho and Party Secretary Riikka Slunga-Poutsalo attend The Finns Party parliamentary election party in Helsinki, Finland, April 14, 2019. /Reuters Photo

Chairman of The Finns Party Jussi Halla-aho and Party Secretary Riikka Slunga-Poutsalo attend The Finns Party parliamentary election party in Helsinki, Finland, April 14, 2019. /Reuters Photo

The Finns Party has seen a surge in support in recent months, urging people to "Vote for some borders" and pledging to reduce Finland's asylum intake to "almost zero".

It more than doubled its presence in parliament, from 17 seats to 39, and regained all of the ground it lost when more than half of Finns Party MPs fled the party in 2017 on the election of hardline leader Jussi Halla-aho.

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

The Social Democrats' Antti Rinne has previously said his party would find it "very difficult" to enter a coalition with the Finns Party.

But after declaring victory on Sunday, Rinne did not rule out a collaboration, saying he "has questions" for the party.

"Some of the questions will be about values," Rinne told Finnish media. "The Social Democratic Party's values are very important, it's the glue that will hold the government together."

Chairman of the Green League Pekka Haavisto, Chairman of The Centre Party Juha Sipila, Chairman of the National Coalition Party Petteri Orpo, Chairman of the Finns Party Jussi Halla-aho and Chairman of The Social Democratic Party Antti Rinne attend the parliamentary elections media reception in Helsinki, Finland, April 14, 2019. /Reuters Photo 

Chairman of the Green League Pekka Haavisto, Chairman of The Centre Party Juha Sipila, Chairman of the National Coalition Party Petteri Orpo, Chairman of the Finns Party Jussi Halla-aho and Chairman of The Social Democratic Party Antti Rinne attend the parliamentary elections media reception in Helsinki, Finland, April 14, 2019. /Reuters Photo 

Rinne could also choose to form a coalition with the conservative National Coalition party, which came in third with 38 seats.

Although the two parties have repeatedly clashed over the conservatives' austerity policies during the last four years, political commentator Sini Korpinen told AFP the pair would more than likely choose to collaborate in order to keep the Finns Party in opposition.

"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.

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.

Source(s): AFP