Friday December 6th, 2019 1:19AM

Social Democrats, populists top Finland vote ahead of EU's

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

HELSINKI (AP) — Results from Finland's parliamentary election illustrated the struggle by Europe's traditional political parties to retain supporters, with the center-left Social Democratic Party winning the most votes and followed closely by a populist party that wants to temper national efforts to curb climate change.

The 17.7% of the vote the Social Democrats received gives it 40 of the 200 seats in Finland's new parliament, one more than the 39 the euroskeptic, anti-immigration Finns Party secured with its 17.5% support.

"I have to make a honest confession: I hoped still for a better result," Social Democratic Party leader Antti Rinne, a former finance minister and union leader, told supporters in central Helsinki. "Let us, my friends, take the Finnish society toward sustainable climate, social and economic policies."

Sunday's election had been watched for signs of how a bloc of euroskeptic populists might do in next month's European Parliament elections. The Finns Party is part of an alliance that hopes to become the strongest faction in the European Union legislature and to radically transform EU policies on migration, families and the environment.

Finns Party chairman Jussi Halla-aho, who received the most votes by far of any candidate for the Eduskunta legislature, said he was surprised by his party's strong performance.

"I certainly could never have expected a result like this," an elated Halla-aho said. Honestly speaking, none of us expected this kind of result."

Voters chose between 2,500 candidates from 19 political parties and movements. Preliminary returns showed the conservative National Coalition Party in third place with 37 seats and outgoing Prime Minister Juha Sipila's Center Party claiming 31 places in the legislature.

The Center Party lost more support than any other party compared to Finland's last election in 2015, apparently punished by voters for failing while in government to push through an ambitious health care and social care reform plan.

Finnish Institute of International Affairs program director Mika Aaltola said voters putting their support behind comparative political upstarts produced "a historic result" in Finland that reflects disenchantment with mainstream politics across Europe.

"Support for the three traditional established parties has been down for years. The political center is weakening, which is an overall European phenomenon," Aaltola wrote on Twitter.

After an election, the party that attracts the most votes typically tries to a new government with other parties as partners. A Cabinet made up of ministers from different political parties is a long-time tradition in Finland.

Most political observers said the election's outcome means if Rinne is named prime minister-designate, he likely would try to form a broad-based majority government with the National Coalition party or a combination of the Center Party and smaller parties such as the Greens.

Rinne said after casting his ballot that all coalition options remained on the table if his party won the most votes but that Finland's government needed to have "the same value base."

The election followed a campaign in which concerns about climate change even overshadowed the issue of how to reform the nation's generous welfare model.

Finland, a European Union member of 5.5 million people, has one-third of its territory above the Arctic Circle. Most political parties support government actions to curb global warming.

Pre-election debates over what and how much the Nordic country should do revealed disagreement among voters. The Finns Party railed against public sacrifices in the name of fighting climate change. It put less focus on immigration than anti-migrant, euroskeptic counterparts elsewhere in Europe have done in recent years.

"For everybody, it's about the climate. It's kind of a climate election. Everybody's feeling some kind of a depression about it," voter Sofia Frantsi, 27, an interior architect from Helsinki, said Sunday.

Rural voters and other residents who feel that the climate change plans of other leading parties require too much sacrifice have been part of the momentum of the populist Finns Party.

"We want a more moderate and sensible climate policy that does not chase industries away from Finland to countries like China," Halla-aho said Sunday at a Helsinki polling station.

Immigration remains a key policy issue, Halla-aho said.

Greenpeace Finland called Sunday's vote the "climate election," saying that "never before has climate and the limits of planet Earth been discussed with such seriousness in Finland."

The environmental group cited a recent nationwide poll in which 70% of respondents said tackling climate change and reducing carbon footprints should be key priorities of the new government.

Finland is boosting its production of nuclear energy by launching a new nuclear power plant next year. Finnish lawmakers last month voted to phase out burning coal as an energy source to end it by 2029.

Other proposals include increasing the number of electric vehicles on Finland's roads and reducing meat consumption through taxes or serving more vegetarian food as part of publicly funded meals in places like schools and the military.

The Social Democratic Party, which has traditionally attracted working-class voters, favors raising taxes and increasing spending to overhaul the social and health care system, which is under strain with one of the most rapidly aging populations worldwide.

The Social Democrats also back the pro-European Union policies of Finland, which uses the shared euro currency but is not a NATO member. Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) border with Russia.

Negotiations to form the next government "will be very difficult, that's very clear, before they can create a government," said Jukka Vakkila, a 57-year-old doctor from Helsinki. "But I think that they will find some kind of consensus ... Finland could be a good example for other countries in this way."


Olli Kangas contributed from Helsinki. Vanessa Gera contributed from Warsaw.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP World News, AP Business
© Copyright 2019
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Social Democrats, populists top Finland vote ahead of EU's
Finland's Social Democratic Party has retained a narrow lead to emerge as the top parliamentary election vote-getter, trailed closely by the populist Finns Party
4:25PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Nevada may be forced to reveal marijuana-license criteria
Nevada may be getting close to opening the books on businesses that sell marijuana in the booming legal marketplace
4:03PM ( 31 minutes ago )
Rins wins MotoGP in Texas after Marquez crash
Suzuki's Alex Rins took his first career MotoGP victory at the Grand Prix of the Americas after six-time race champion Marc Marquez crashed out of the lead midway through the race
3:59PM ( 35 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Storms sweep across the South, killing 6 and injuring dozens
Deadly storms sweep across the South after spawning suspected tornadoes and killing six people
3:31PM ( 1 hour ago )
Pelosi calls on Trump to take down his tweet of Omar video
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she has taken steps to ensure the safety of Rep. Ilhan Omar following President Donald Trump's retweet of a video that purports to show the Minnesota Democrat being dismissive of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
3:30PM ( 1 hour ago )
Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg set to make 2020 Democratic run
Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, is expected to make his Democratic run for president official during a rally in the city where he launched his political career less than a decade ago
3:10PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
US-Russia chill stirs worry about stumbling into conflict
The U.S. and Russia need to talk more _ that's what American and European analysts, as well as current and former U.S. military officers are saying about the nuclear superpowers.
1:51PM ( 2 hours ago )
Trump sanctuary city idea could help migrants stay in US
President Donald Trump's idea of sending immigrants from the border to "sanctuary cities" to exact revenge on Democratic foes might actually be helpful to the migrants, experts say
1:36PM ( 2 hours ago )
Masters Latest: Five-way tie for lead late in final round
Masters Latest: Five-way tie for lead late in final round
1:36PM ( 2 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Sen. Gillibrand raises $3M in first quarter for 2020 race
Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand raised more than $3 million in the first three months of the year
1:26PM ( 3 hours ago )
Nevada moving closer to unveiling who gets to sell legal pot
Nevada may be getting close to opening the books on businesses that sell marijuana in the booming legal marketplace
11:47AM ( 4 hours ago )
Sanders: Sending migrants to sanctuary cities not top choice
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says the president wants officials to explore a twice-dismissed proposal to send migrants to "sanctuary cities," but it was not the preferred solution to fix the straining immigration system
10:57AM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Workers' rights are a 2020 campaign focus this weekend
The issue of workers' rights is a focus this weekend for some of the Democrats running for president
9:16PM ( 19 hours ago )
Dems defend Omar after Trump retweets video against her
Top Democrats are defending Rep. Ilhan Omar after President Donald Trump retweeted video that was edited to suggest the freshman Minnesota Democrat was being dismissive of the significance of the worst terrorist assault on U.S. soil
8:27PM ( 20 hours ago )
Albanian opposition clashes with police in anti-govt protest
Albanian opposition parties have rallied in the Tirana, the capital, calling for the government's resignation and an early parliamentary election
4:56PM ( 23 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
'Shazam!' bests newcomers with $25.1M second weekend
A quartet of newcomers in movie theaters couldn't shake "Shazam!" from the top spot, as the superhero comedy led the box office for the second straight weekend with an estimated $25.1 million in ticket sales
1:53PM ( 2 hours ago )
Finland: early returns show left-wing party with slight lead
Early returns in Finland's parliamentary election have the center-left Social Democratic Party in first place and the conservative National Coalition Party
1:41PM ( 2 hours ago )
China, Japan tout 'recovered' ties amid global uncertainty
Japan's foreign minister says China and Japan have the opportunity to "take charge of the economic field" during a time of worldwide uncertainty
10:29AM ( 6 hours ago )
AP Business
Nevada may be forced to reveal marijuana-license criteria
Nevada may be getting close to opening the books on businesses that sell marijuana in the booming legal marketplace
4:03PM ( 31 minutes ago )
Rins wins MotoGP in Texas after Marquez crash
Suzuki's Alex Rins took his first career MotoGP victory at the Grand Prix of the Americas after six-time race champion Marc Marquez crashed out of the lead midway through the race
3:59PM ( 35 minutes ago )
Infantino holds Kuwait talks on staging 2022 World Cup games
FIFA President Gianni Infantino has held talks with Kuwaiti politicians and soccer leaders about the country staging games at the 2022 World Cup if the Qatar tournament is enlarged to 48 teams
3:59PM ( 35 minutes ago )
Irving, Morris lead Celtics' rally past Pacers in Game 1
Kyrie Irving and Marcus Morris each had 20 points, and the Boston Celtics rallied in the second half to beat the Indiana Pacers 84-74 to take a 1-0 lead in their first-round playoff series
3:49PM ( 45 minutes ago )
The Latest: Finland populist party on Social Democrat heels
Election returns in Finland indicate the Social Democratic Party was the top vote-getter in the country's parliamentary election, trailed closely by the populist euroskeptic Finns Party
3:46PM ( 47 minutes ago )