Finnish Social Democrats Score First in Advance Voting in Election

Climate change, social care are top issues in Finnish vote

Climate change, social care are top issues in Finnish vote

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, who as head of state is not involved in government affairs except foreign policy, tweeted on Saturday that he has a "major timing problem" since the vote results clash with a USA-Finland women's ice hockey World Championship final match.

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.

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.

The Finns' strong showing further complicates coalition talks, with most party leaders ruling out any cooperation with them.

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. After the elections, the composition of the 200-seat unicameral parliament will be determined, a new government will be formed and a prime minister will be appointed. A populist party that was expected to do well on Sunday railed against public sacrifices in the name of fighting climate change instead of making immigration its main campaign issue, as anti-migrant, euroskeptic counterparts elsewhere in Europe have done.

Finland, a European Union member of 5.5 million people, has one-third of its territory above the Arctic Circle.

The anti-immigration Finns Party also decries the "climate hysteria" of other parties seeking action against global warming.

But Halla-aho, who was fined by the Supreme Court in 2012 for blog comments linking Islam to paedophilia and Somalis to theft, emerged as Finland's most popular politician on Sunday, garnering the highest number of votes - more than 30,000.

"For the first time since 1999 we are the largest party in Finland", said Rinne, although the fine margin of the SDP's victory means building a coalition could be hard.

The opposition Social Democratic Party, which has traditionally attracted working-class voters, topped a recent poll with 19% voter support. "We have already done our part", he said.

"I haven't closed out the (populist) Finns Party. The future is a big question for us, all this climate changing, education systems reforming. all kind of things are very important" to Finland's people, he said.

The Finns Party's stance on environmental policies, which includes opposing a proposed tax on meat consumption, appeals to rural voters in particular who worry about soaring fuel costs and resent any efforts to change what they see as the traditional Finnish way of life.

Finland is boosting its nuclear energy production by launching a new plant next year and lawmakers last month voted to completely phase out burning coal by 2029.

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