Social Democrats inch ahead in election with mixed fortunes

While SDP carved out a small lead in the elections, the focus now turns to possible partners to form the next coalition government.

Social Democrats celebrate their apparent slim election victory / Credit: News Now Finland

The Social Democrats lead by former union boss Antti Rinne have eked out a narrow lead in the general election with 99% of the votes counted.

In a close race for the top three parties, the centre left SDP are on course to be the biggest party in government with 40 seats (17.7% of the votes); next comes the populist Finns Party with 39 seats (17.5%); and the centre right National Coalition Party with 38 seats (17%).

Rinne said the election was about “the Finnish future”.

“The future is a big question for us. It’s climate change and education reforms, they are very important to all Finnish people” he said.

The Social Democrats will likely now have the chance to form a coalition government, and Rinne tells News Now Finland that he would likely rule out an alliance with the right wing, anti-immigrant Finns Party.

“If we are the first party we are going to ask all other parties what is their opinion to the government programme. That’s a very big question for us […] I have said that my values are very different to [Finns Party leader] Jussi Halla-aho‘s values, and that’s a very big question for me. We need to have a coalition government where there is the same value base” he explains.

Finns Party leader Jussi Halla-aho on election night / Credit: News Now Finland

Finns Party rebounds 

The Finns Party – which split in half just two years ago – has maintained a similar number of MPs that it won in the 2015 general election, although their share of the vote dropped.

Still, Halla-aho described the results as a “tsunami”.

He faces an uphill task to get other parties to go into government with his, and analysts say it might suit the Finns Party to be in opposition, rather than part of the government.

National Coalition Party MP Juhana Vartiainen on election night / Credit: News Now Finland

National Coalition Party intact 

The National Coalition Party, lead by Petteri Orpo has also slipped a little in terms of vote share but look likely to stay as the third place party – the same position they occupied at the last general election.

The NCP’s voters stuck by them, despite the austerity measures of their coalition government which proved so unpopular with voters.

“It seems that we have done pretty well through past four years. We have conducted tough [economic] policies and we still held our positions. Whatever happens, we’ll be a major player in [the next] government’s political negotiations” predicts NCP member of parliament Juhana Vartiainen tells News Now Finland.

Outgoing environment minister Kimmo Tiilikainen (Centre) / Credit: News Now Finland

Big losses for governing Centre Party

The biggest losses of the night were for interim Prime Minister Juha Sipilä whose party slumped from first to fourth place in the results, and lost 18 seats.

“Of course we are disappointed with the result. We were somehow prepared that the result may be bad, but I guess this was worse than we expected. It’s a disappointment” says outgoing environment minister Kimmo Tiilikainen.

Pundits expect that Sipilä will quit the party in short order, and possibly commit them to four years in opposition, which could bring the renewal that many in the party feel they need.

Swedish People’s Party leader Anna-Maja Henriksson / Credit: News Now Finland

Gains for Left, Greens; happy Swedish People’s Party

There were expected gains for the Green Alliance, up five seats; while the Left Alliance gained six seats. It puts one or possibly both parties in the frame for coalition talks to form the next government.

“Obviously, it’s [an] amazing feeling, the whole campaign group, which was actually a couple of hundred of people from all over the country. In my personal campaign, they felt and I felt we shouldn’t change anything. We’re happy to be here and so happy to see the results” said Maria Ohisalo, a newly minted MP and tipped to be a possible leader of the party at their summer congress.

Former Left Alliance leader, and presidential candidate Paavo Arhinmäki said their election night wins were the result of hard work.

“We worked hard last ten years to modernize the party and this is the first victory for us in parliament elections in 24 years. It’s a result of the hard work” Arhinmäki tells News Now Finland.

The Swedish People’s Party may have picked up one extra seat than they previously held in parliament – pending final counts – and another former presidential candidate Eva Biaudet says when it comes to forming a coalition, she didn’t see how her party could join an alliance with the Finns Party, as their values are fundamentally different.

Blue Reform chairman Sampo Terho on election night / Credit: News Now Finland

Blue Reform dead in the water 

It was a dispiriting night for the Blue Reform party, who had hopes of getting up to five MPs in parliament but came away empty handed.

All five of their government ministers failed to get re-elected.

Party leaders say they’re still active in municipal politics, and will consider whether to contest May’s European Parliament election at a meeting on Monday.