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Fast Comment FinlandElection results in a fragmented parliament in Finland

  1. Social Democrats win, but by a very thin margin
  2. Protest votes went to the Finns Party
  3. Process of forming a government likely to be difficult
Social Democrats win, but by a very thin margin
Finland’s Social Democratic Party gained the most seats in the Finnish parliamentary elections held on Sunday, April 14. The party received 40 of the 200 seats in parliament. However, the Social Democrats won by a very narrow margin, as they secured only one seat more that the populist Finns Party, which gained 39 seats to become the second largest party (followed by the centre-right National Coalition party, with 38 seats). The winner of the previous election in 2015, the Center Party, received 31 seats. The Green Party received 20 seats and the leftist Left Alliance got 16 seats. Smaller parties gained a total of 16 seats: Swedish People’s Party got nine seats, the Christian Democrats got five seats and two seats were allocated to smaller parties.
Protest votes went to the Finns Party
Among the winners in the election was the eurosceptic Finns Party, which split into two parties as recently as in 2017, when more moderate members left the party to form a new party, Blue Reform. Blue Reform did not receive any seats in the new parliament. The Social Democrats had a relatively substantial lead in the polls ahead of the elections (the polls suggested about 20 percent of votes), yet they won by a very small margin and received only 17.7 percent of votes. It must be stated, however, that the Social Democrats did succeed in gaining six new seats to become the largest party in parliament. The most successful party to mobilise voters objecting to the austerity policies of the previous government was the Finns Party. The party has only one extra seat compared to the previous parliament, but the party is not the same one as in the previous round, when it was still a united party. The Greens and Left Alliance were also among the winner, as both gained several new seats. The Center Party lost 18 seats in all to became the biggest loser of the election. All-in-all, the composition of the Finnish parliament is now more fragmented and the gravity of politics after the result leans more to the center-left than the previous government.
Government formation process likely to be difficult
The previous government introduced several austerity measures, such as benefits cuts, pension freezes and longer working hours. They helped to reduce government debt for the first time in a decade last year, but the reforms proved to be politically controversial. Meanwhile, the Social Democrats, with strong links to Finland's trade unions, increased its popularity. The party leader, Antti Rinne, will most likely be the person that tries to form the new cabinet. Given that the three largest parties (Social Democrats, Finns and the Coalition Party) are all relatively far apart on the key issues, the formation of a new government will be difficult task. The Finns, which campaigned on an anti-immigrant and eurosceptic platform, are now firmly planted in the mainstream of Finnish politics. Jussi Halla-aho, the party’s leader, ran a campaign against greater environmental controls and criticised the liberal elite’s perceived obsession with global warming. The Social Democrats have focused on pledges to improve welfare by spending more on education. The party would finance such measures through higher taxes. One potential government partner for the Social Democrats is the National Coalition, but joining forces would require compromise, as the party is a strong advocate of lower taxes. Government talks are most likely to get very messy and be long-lasting.

Disclaimer

Tiina Helenius

Chief Economist Finland

Finland and Emerging Asia

tihe01@handelsbanken.se

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