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Opposition Centre Party extends lead as nation's most popular party

A poll conducted at the midpoint of the Katainen government's term shows that the opposition Centre Party has solidified its position as the nation's most widely-backed party.

Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

In the latest Yle/Taloustutkimus public opinion survey, support for Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen's conservative National Coalition Party (NCP) remained unchanged at just over 19 percent, while the opposition Centre Party extended its lead as the largest bloc with 21.7 percent. It surpassed the NCP in April's poll.

The other opposition bloc, the populist Finns Party, lost some ground but remained in third place.

The second main government party, the Social Democrats, held on to its fourth-place ranking. Support for the SDP, led by Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen, even edged up slightly. All the others in the six-party left-right coalition lost some popularity except for the tiny Christian Democrats. The Left Alliance and the Green League remain tied neck-and-neck in shared fifth place.

Party of Kekkonen and Vanhanen enjoys rebirth

Most parties' support has changed by less than the 1.4 percentage point margin of error since the previous survey one month ago. However the Centre appears to be the big winner, with a 2.3 percentage point rise in backing.

Now led by the soft-spoken Juha Sipilä and seemingly recovered from a string of scandals, the Centre is savouring its highest popularity level in nearly five years.

Katainen's three predecessors as prime minister were all Centre Party leaders: Matti Vanhanen (2003-10) and the nation's first two female premiers, who both had short terms: Anneli Jäätteenmäki (2003) and Mari Kiviniemi (2010-11).

The nation's longest-running president, Urho Kekkonen, who served five stints as PM in the 1950s, led the party under its previous name, the Agrarian League.

The leaders of all the parties represented in Parliament will meet for a live televised debate on Wednesday evening. They are to evaluate the state of the nation midway between parliamentary elections. The broadcast begins at 9.05pm on Yle's TV1.

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