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Social Dems, populists top Finland vote in EU litmus test

Reuters

Finnish Social Democratic Party Chairman Antti Rinne, second from left, his wife Heta Ravolainen-Rinne and Party Secretary Antton Ronnholm, second from right, attend a party in Helsinki on Sunday.

The Associated PressHELSINKI (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 percent of the vote the Social Democrats received gives it 40 of the 200 seats in Finland’s new parliament, one more than the 39 that the euroskeptic, anti-immigration Finns Party secured with its 17.5 percent support.

“I have to make an 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.Speech

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