Nationalist Right in Finland Makes Historic Gains

Finns went to the polls on Sunday to elect a new Parliament. The right-wing National Coalition won 20.4 percent of the vote while the left of center Social Democratic Party won 19.1 percent. However, the seats of both the parties shrank in the Parliament, with National Coalition retaining 44 of its previous 50 and Socialists holding on to 42 out of 45. The Centre Party - previously the largest party in parliament - won just 35 seats, down 16 from the last election in 2007. The big winner was the far right nationalist party, the True Finns (Perussuomalaiset in Finnish) which finished in third place with 19 percent of the vote and 39 seats in the 200 seat chamber.

Headed by Timo Soini, the True Finns were founded in 1995 out of the remnants of the Rural Party, a centre-right party that advocated for agrarian interests. In the out-going parliament, the True Finns held just six seats on 4.1 percent of the vote in 2007. The party is staunchly anti-EU, anti-immigration and is opposed to bailouts of debt-laden EU countries such as Ireland and Portugal. Unlike most other eurozone countries, the terms of Finland's ascension treaty allows the Finnish parliament to vote on whether to approve the rescue package for Portugal.

Still, the  conservative National Coalition's leader, outgoing Finance Minister Jyrki Katainen, is however almost certain to take the prime minister's office and form a government, as his party rose for the first time in history to become the largest in parliament with 44 seats.The balance of the seats were distributed among the Left Alliance which won 14 parliamentary seats, the Green League with 10, the Swedish People's Party with 9, and the Christian Democratic League with 6.

Voter turnout was 70.4 percent, marginally higher than the 67.9 percent that voted in 2007.

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