Older, established political parties, from the conservative National Coalition Party (NCP) to the Left Alliance, gained support in October, according to an Yle/Taloustutkimus public opinion poll published Thursday.
Support for Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s Centre Party recovered after months of decline, rising from last month’s rock bottom of 15.8 percent to 17.4. That pushed the Centre past the opposition Greens as the third largest party for the first time since July.
Correspondingly, the Greens fell 2.6 percentage points to the same level as early in the year, 14 percent.
Pollster Jari Pajunen, who runs Taloustutkimus, describes both of these moves as corrections.
“The Greens have risen so much, and the Centre’s support fell so low that it had to come back up. The Centre’s core support is 15-16 percent, and now some of its mobile supporters have returned,” says Pajunen.
The Greens meanwhile lost supporters to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the NCP in particular.
The Greens have also kept a lower profile this autumn, notes Johanna Vuorelma, a post-doc researcher in political science at the University of Helsinki.
“At some point the Greens became the main opposition party, in a way,” she says. “The party was so visible. At the moment there is a kind of quietness with the new chair, and not such visible initiatives.” Touko Aalto took over from long-time leader Ville Niinistö in June.
Old parties return
Finance Minister Petteri Orpo’s NCP reinforced its number-one position, with its backing up to nearly 23 percent. The number-two party, the opposition SDP, rose by the same margin of 1.1 percentage points to 18.4, but still lags more than four percentage points behind the NCP.
Pajunen suggests that President Sauli Niinistö’s widely popular re-election bid may be benefitting his former party, even though he is running as an unaffiliated candidate.
The Left Alliance also edged up by about a percentage point, surpassing opposition rivals the Finns Party.
“The old parties are striking back,” says Pajunen.
Finns Party support sags
The biggest loser of the month is the Finns Party, which saw a third of its support melt away. It dropped to 6.9 percent, a level not seen since early 2010.
“A really significant drop,” says Pajunen. “We rarely see three-point fluctuations.”
As Vuorelma sees it, the visibility of the populist party’s presidential candidate Laura Huhtasaari has not been able to make up for the absence of party chair Jussi Halla-aho, who has remained in Brussels as a Member of the European Parliament since his election in June.
The anti-immigration hardliner’s selection resulted in a split in the party that still has strong reverberations in Finnish politics. The splinter Blue Reform parliamentary group retains the party’s old seat in government alongside the heavyweight Centre and NCP. Yet its support remains negligible, well below that of the opposition Swedish People’s Party and Christian Democrats – and even lower than some parties with no seats in Parliament.
Pajunen says it is surprising that even with five cabinet ministers and 19 MPs, the group cannot raise its support beyond one percent. The Blues formally applied to become a political party in mid-October.