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Yle poll: Historic highs for Greens, SDP backslides, Finns Party slips

The opposition Greens continue to build on historic levels of support shown in April’s municipal elections, according to a new party approval poll published by Yle. The voter survey showed that the largest opposition party, the SDP continues to fall short of its polling goals, while a much-anticipated leadership clash in the Finns Party has failed to give the party a boost.

Party support

Although the opposition Greens are facing the prospect of finding a viable successor to outgoing chair Ville Niinistö, the prospect of a change in the party leadership has not affected its standing among voters. This year alone, the Greens have seen their approval rating grow by 1.5 percentage points.

The contest at the top has been ongoing since March, when deputy chair Maria Ohisalo was the first to announce a bid for the chairmanship. Since then MPs Touko Aalto, Emma Kari, Krista Mikkonen and Olli-Poika Parviainen as well as researcher Mika Flöjt have also thrown their hats into the ring.

"There are probably three reasons for increased support for the Greens. First, backing had already risen to an all-time high for them during the spring and then came the municipal election results, which further fed approval," Pajunen explained.

A third reason is the chairmanship race, which had increased the party’s public profile. At the same time, the campaigns have been clean and party supporters have been provided with consistently clear information about the party’s policies.

The party began so see its popularity increase as far back as 2011, when Ville Niinistö was elected in June of that year. At the time, the Greens had the backing of 7.2 percent of voters. Yle’s poll shows that since then, the party’s approval rating has more than doubled under Niinistö’s stewardship.

SDP falls short of targets

When the SDP held its party convention in Lahti at the beginning of February, chairman Antti Rinne was re-elected to steer the party to success in the municipal elections.

According to Rinne, the party needed to return to a culture of winning and he declared that the party would accept nothing short of a "real election victory". Rinne had previously set the SDP the goal of becoming the biggest party in the local election, so it was a disappointment when the party was edged out of meeting that target by a mere 0.2 percent.

The SDP’s story of falling short of its goals continued in Yle’s latest political poll. Since May, the party shed 0.9 percent voter support.

"The local election result was not what was hoped for, so it probably caused some dejection. Nominating a candidate for the presidential election has created uncertainty," said Taloustutkimus chief executive Jari Pajunen.

However Pajunen stressed that the decision of senior MP Eero Heinäluoma sit out the presidential election did not affect the outcome of the voter survey. "The impact will come in the longer term," Pajunen added.

The SDP is expected to formally name a candidate for the 2018 presidential election in the autumn.

No pre-vote surge for Finns Party

The Finns Party has been engaged in a battle for the party chair for about as long the Greens. High profile candidates to step into departing chair Timo Soini’s large shoes include immigrant-sceptic hardliner MEP Jussi Halla-aho and the more moderate European, Sport and Culture Minister Sampo Terho – who appear to be neck-and neck in pre-vote polls.

Other contenders are MPs Leena Meri and Veera Ruoho as well as Riku Nevanpää, chair of the Harjavalta Finns Party chapter. Although leadership elections usually provide a boost to national approval polls, this has not been the case for the nationalist party.

"The Finns Party leadership election seems to be arousing more questions than giving answers. With the Greens, [voters] can expect to see the same policies."

Apart from public conjecture about the flavour of the party under a new leader, there has also been speculation that the parliamentary group may not be as cohesive and may splinter. The party leadership has refuted claims of possible fragmentation among MPs.

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