A conservative political party that campaigned against open borders and climate change policies won the second-highest number of seats in Finland's parliamentary elections on Sunday.
The Finns Party, led by MEP Jussi Halla-aho, has seen a surge in support in recent months after urging citizens to “vote for some borders”. Notably, men accounted for 80 percent of the Finns Party’s support.
The second most popular party ran a vocal campaign calling for immigration to be reduced to near zero while decrying “climate hysteria”. The Finns Party had gained momentum among rural voters.
While the other eight parties participating endorsed further measures to fight climate change, the Finns Party argued that aggressive climate change policies are an elitist hoax that hurts the working class.
Voter turnout was 72 percent, the BBC reported. But it is the first time in more than a century that no party has won more than 20 percent of the vote.
The Finns Party scored even higher than predicted by recent polls before the ballot. It was almost tied in the popular vote with the winning party. A record 1,5 million Finns – over a third of the electorate – had cast their votes during a week of advance voting earlier this month.
Its performance on Sunday reflected a growing fragmentation among voters with a split vote and no party winning by clear margin. Establishment parties will probably make it hard to build a workable coalition, as the other parties expressed reservations about entering a coalition with the Finns Party. The Greens and the Left Alliance also increased their share of the vote.
The chairman of the Finns Party expressed his surprise at how well his party performed in Finland’s parliamentary election. He called it a “day of joy” adding: “I certainly could never have expected a result like this. Honestly speaking, none of us expected this kind of result.”
Halla-aho also received the most votes by far of any candidate who ran for the Eduskunta legislature. Finnish media suggested that Halla-aho could be the kingmaker in the next government.
The winning Social Democratic Party leader, Antti Rinne, told the media after the results were announced: “I have to make a honest confession: I hoped still for a better result.”
The Finns Party won 39 seats, just one seat shy of the Social Democrats. The Center Party that led the previous government, only managed fourth place, losing 18 seats, with the center-right National Coalition Party, which was also part of the coalition, gaining one seat, totalling 38.
Finns also voted in the most female lawmakers in their history with women now holding 92 out of Parliament’s 200 seats, up from 83 in the last election.
Finland is due to take over the rotating presidency of the European Union on July 1.
At a Finns Party rally on the eve of the vote in Myyrmaki, a disadvantaged suburb of the capital, crowds gathered around party leader Halla-aho, asking for autographs and congratulating him on the campaign, The Standard reported.