Finland’s leftist Social Democrats won first place in advance voting in the general election. The party scooped 18.9 percent of the votes, after 35.5 percent of ballots had been counted, justice ministry data revealed. The centre-right National Coalition of outgoing Finance Minister Petteri Orpo came in second, with 17.2 percent of the advance ballots. The Centre Party of outgoing Prime Minister Juha Sipila scored third, with 15.4 percent.
The nationalist True Finns party came in fourth, with 15.1 percent of the vote.
About 36 percent of voting-age Finns cast their votes in a seven-day advance voting period, which ended on Tuesday.
But the results from these votes are often not clear as there are differences in voter behaviour in different regions.
But the final results could still show another group winning and getting the first shot at forming government.
The Finns’ strong results could complicate coalition talks, as most party leaders have ruled out any cooperation with them.
At the stake in the election is the future shape of Finland’s welfare system, a corner of its social model, which the leftist want to preserve through tax hikes and the centre-right wants to see streamlined because of rising costs.
The Finns call for limits on the country’s environmental policies, arguing the nation has gone too far in addressing issues such as climate change at its own expense, as well as a revamp of its immigration stance.
With the European Parliament election less than two months away, the Finnish ballot is also being watched in Brussels. A strong result for the Finns Party could bolster a nationalist bloc threatening to shake up EU policy-making.
Finland has been governed by a three-party coalition over the past four years.
This has been made up of the Centre Party, Finns Party and the National Coalition.
But the coalition was thrown into turmoil in March this year when Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila, leader of the Centre Party, resigned after failing to get healthcare and welfare reforms through parliament.
Antti Ronkainen, a political economist at the University of Helsinki, said there may be five major parties after this election, rather than the usual three that have always dominated Finnish politics.
He said: “The Social Democrats are probable winners because they lead in every poll by two to three percentage points.
“However their support is below 20 percent, which means that if they don’t co-operate with the Finns Party they will likely need at least three other parties to form a majority government.
“I’m pretty sure the Centre Party will not be in the (next) government. They are being punished heavily for being the prime minister’s party now and failing to push their social and healthcare reforms through and unpopular policies like taking money away from education for example.
“What seems most likely is that the Social Democrats will be the largest and the prime ministerial party.
“Any winner wants to avoid working with the Finns Party, but we’ll see if that’s possible after the election.”