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Poll: Finns Party gain, NCP close behind SDP

Three months before Finland's parliamentary election, an Yle poll suggests the Social Democrats are poised to become the largest party in the legislature.

The traditional 'big three' still dominate the Finnish political field. Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

The nationalist Finns Party scored the biggest gains in the latest Yle/Taloustutkimus party poll. The party's support has risen by more than two percentage points to 10.2 percent since the last survey.

This is the first time the populist party’s support has passed 10 percent since last June – but still far below its peak of 19.1 percent in the 2011 election. And they would still apparently lose seats in Parliament if the election were held now, due to a party split since the last election.

According to pollster Taloustutkimus research director Tuomo Turja, Finns Party support clearly rose immediately after recent news of crimes attributed to immigrants in Oulu and Helsinki.

SDP and NCP neck-and-neck

Meanwhile the rivalry between the two most popular parties, the Social Democrats (SDP) and the conservative National Coalition Party (NCP), is heating up. The SDP again emerged in the top spot, but its backing dipped to 21.2 percent – as the NCP was breathing down its neck, rising to 19.6 percent.

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s Centre Party saw voter approval slide to 16.1 percent, its lowest level in nearly a year and a half. Turja notes that the biggest losses in Centre support were among men and residents of the Oulu region – Sipilä’s home district.

Greens' rise levels off

Two months ago, the opposition Greens chose former chair, government minister and presidential contender Pekka Haavisto as their new leader after the previous chair stepped down for health reasons.

That sparked a sharp rise in party support in November, which has now dropped off. Party support edged down slightly to 13.6 percent, still enough to keep them within shouting distance of the traditional ‘big three’ parties.

Turja points out that if the Greens’ electoral result is between 13.5 and 14 percent, that would be a major gain since the last parliamentary and municipal elections.

The Left Alliance’s popularity was up by one percentage point to 9.5 percent. Turja says the opposition party is gaining popularity among women as well as white-collar workers.

The other parties – including junior government partners the Blue Reform – all garnered well below five percent support.

Red-Greens could gain 26 seats in Parliament

With less than three months to go before advance voting begins on April 3, Taloustutkimus has made preliminary projections as to how the parties might fare in terms of seats in Parliament, based on the last six monthly polls.

Parties now in opposition stand to gain the most seats, says the pollster.

The SDP could pick up 13 more seats to give them a bloc of 47 MPs in the 200-seat legislature, raising them from the third-largest to the biggest party in the chamber.

The Greens would gain 10 seats for a total of 25, while the Left Alliance might add three for a 15-member delegation.

Of the three current government parties, the NCP is poised to add six seats for a total of 43 MPs. The premier’s Centre, meanwhile, looks likely to drop seven seats, falling behind the NCP with one seat less at 42.

The number-crunchers compared the latest data with figures from the spring 2015 parliamentary election.

They predict that based on current polling, the Finns Party are on track to gain lose seats from their current 17, giving them a 15-seat bloc, on par with the Left. That would be a precipitous drop of 23 seats from the 2015 election – as the party split in mid-2017.

A splinter group left to establish the Blue Reform party, which despite ministerial posts has failed to excite voters’ interest so far – attracting support of just one percent in this poll.

Taloustutkimus interviewed 2,443 people between 10 December and 8 January. It puts the margin of error at +/- 2.1 percentage points for the larger parties.

Correction, 2:51 pm: despite higher support, the Finns Party are on track to lose two seats, headline corrected accordingly.