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Finns Party and leftists gain in Finnish EU vote

Finland sprang a few surprises in the election to the European Parliament. Turnout increased compared to the last European election, the Left Alliance staged a comeback and the Finns Party gained one seat. The Christian Democrats lost their seat despite increasing their vote share, and the Greens lost one of their two spots.

Election pic 2014
European elections 2014

Finland will send a new cohort of MEPs to Brussels and Strasbourg after just five of the sitting legislators made it through the election. The new group of 13 MEPs will have a female majority and a shift in the balance of power among the parties.

As expected, the Finns Party increased its vote dramatically and will now send two MEPs to the European Parliament. They will be Jussi Halla-aho, a hard-right MP who made his name criticising Finland’s immigration policy, and sitting MEP Sampo Terho. Party leader Timo Soini claimed this as a win for his troops.

"We doubled our share,” said the Espoo MP.

SPP save their spot

His lead candidate Halla-aho, who was also the second most-popular candidate in the country, may not share Soini’s enthusiasm. Halla-aho had urged his supporters to turn out in numbers because ”the higher the turnout, the surer we are that the Swedish People’s Party will not be in the European Parliament”.

Although turnout did rise from 40.3 percent in the last election to 40.9 percent in this one, the Swedish People’s Party did retain their MEP spot. Party stalwart Nils Torvalds returns to the parliament as part of the liberal ALDE grouping.

The National Coalition Party remains Finland’s leading political force, with Alexander Stubb gathering more votes than any other candidate in Finland. His total was nearly double that of his nearest rival, Halla-aho. Stubb tried to be modest on election night.

"It’s nice but it really doesn’t matter if the team doesn’t win,” said Stubb.

The Centre Party had perhaps the most diverse range of candidates. Former EU Commissioner and urbane pro-Europe liberal Olli Rehn lined up alongside party heavyweight and noted Lapland Eurosceptic Paavo Väyrynen--and they were both elected to serve in the same group.

"It's been a positive tremor," said Rehn, whose ALDE group will also include former communist Nils Torvalds and ex-PM Anneli Jäätteenmäki.

Left on the march

One team that most certainly did win was the Left Alliance. They return to the European Parliament after a five-year gap, with former Transport Minister Merja Kyllönen set to take up their spot.

"The Left is on the up all over Europe,” party leader Paavo Arhinmäki told Yle.

The Social Democrats protected their two MEP spots, but their share of the vote went down by 5 percentage points compared to 2009. Their newly-minted leader, former union boss Antti Rinne, did not try to gloss over the result.

SDP 'punched in face'

"Both the share of the vote and the SDP result look pretty poor,” said SDP chair Rinne. ”We got a bit of a punch in the face.”

Christian Democrat leader Päivi Räsänen, who also stood as a candidate in this election, was pleased with the outcome even though the party’s MEP Sari Essayah lost her spot. In 2009 the party had formed an electoral pact with the Finns Party, but without an alliance this time even increased support was not enough to save Essayah.

"We had a great campaign and a good atmosphere,” said Räsänen. ”Our support has risen above five percent, which is our best result of all-time. I’m happy about that.”

The Green League also lost one spot, albeit from a high level of support achieved last time round. Heidi Hautala, the former minister who actually did make it through, had one explanation.

"The Greens' themes like climate change have been less prominent than in 2009," said Hautala.

You can see the full results at Yle's election website.

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