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Greens surge in Finland’s EU Parliament election, Centre Party spurned

The Greens picked up an additional six percent of votes and will be sending two MEPs to Brussels.

Green Party chair Pekka Haavisto (right) at the party's election vigil. Image: Tuomo Björksten / Yle

With nearly all votes counted (99.9 percent) in Sunday’s European Parliament elections, Finland’s Green Party was celebrating major strides in the poll. The party ended the night with 16 percent of votes and picked up an additional 6.7 percent of ballots and another seat to send two MEPs to Brussels.

It was the party’s best-ever Europarliament election result, eclipsing any outcome it had seen in parliamentary elections.

"The Greens are now among the big parties," party chair Pekka Haavisto said as he reacted to the results.

The Greens may have been the evening’s biggest winner, but the National Coalition Party led by Petteri Orpo topped the poll with 20.8 percent voter support to retain its three MEP seats, although voter enthusiasm in this election slipped by 1.8 percentage points. Earlier in the evening, Orpo reacted to advance voting results that showed his party at the top of the table.

"This does look like an election win. It’s a very strong first place. Taking the parliamentary election result into consideration, you have to be satisfied."

The Social Democratic Party also protected its two Europarliament seats, snapping up an additional 2.3 percent of votes in this election to close the night on 14.6 percent support. Earlier in the evening party chair Antti Rinne had characterised the advance voting result that put it in second place as an "election win".

Centre trounced in second consecutive poll

Juha Sipilä’s Centre Party was once more repudiated by voters as the party haemorrhaged 6.1 percent of votes to lose one seat in the European Parliament. This means it will be represented by two MEPs in the next session. Sipilä had already departed the election watch and left vice chair Katri Kulmuni to field questions about the party’s performance.

"It is a sad ending to the [political] career of Juha Sipilä, whose star seemed so bright just a few years ago," Helsinki University world politics professor Teivo Teivainen remarked to Yle News as he harked back to the Centre’s ignominious defeat in parliamentary elections just about one month ago.

The Finns Party, which was widely expected to dumbfound critics as it did during the parliamentary elections, picked up an additional one percent of votes and held on to its two MEP seats. However the result appeared to fall short of the populist wave that political pundits anticipated across the continent.

"It looks like political parties were better able to mobilise voters who were concerned about issues like climate change and social exclusion and equality than the far-right was able to mobilise about closing borders," social commentator and writer Maryan Abdulkarim told Yle News. She noted that Green parties had posted big gains across the EU on election night.

The Swedish People’s Party and the Left Alliance both kept their single MEP seats safe in this election, although the Left saw 2.4 percent of voters abandon it compared to a negligible 0.4 percent for the SPP. The parties closed off the evening with 6.4 and 6.9 percent voter support respectively.

SDP's Heinäluoma the biggest vote magnet

Candidates who secured Europarliament sets on Sunday included familiar names such as the Greens’ Heidi Hautala and Ville Niinistö, as well as Laura Huhtasaari and Teuvo Hakkarainen of the Finns Party in addition to the Centre’s Mauri Pekkarinen, Henna Virkkunen of the NCP and Nils Torvalds of the SPP.

The SDP’s Eero Heinäluoma was the evening’s biggest vote magnet, with Ville Niinistö also proving to be a popular candidate, as well as Huhtasaari.

Election officials’ initial estimate is that 42.7 percent of eligible voters turned out to cast their ballots in this year’s election, compared to five years ago, when the voter turnout was 39.1 percent. Based on the initial results, the average age of Finnish MEPs is 55 with not a single MEP under the age of 40 elected.

Finland will seat 13 Europarliamentarians in Brussels, but if and when the UK exits the EU, a 14th member will be elevated. Based on the results so far, Christian Democratic Party chair Sari Essayah could nab the seat, however Yle’s forecast gives the position to the NCP’s Eija-Riitta Korhola.