Social Democrats set to top polls in Finnish election

Finns may elect their first leftist prime minister in two decades in parliamentary elections today (April 14th), as voters worry over the future of the country’s generous welfare system as the costs of caring for a rapidly ageing population rise. 

In such a case, however, the Social Democrats’ ability to govern may be hampered by a surge in support for the nationalist Finns Party, currently riding a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment sweeping the Nordics. 

Reuters reports on a survey commissioned by public broadcaster Yle, which showed the Social Democrats could win the top spot with 19 percent of the vote, giving their leader, Antti Rinne, the first shot at forming a government. 

The Finns are running close second with 16.3 percent support, after scoring rapid gains since the start of this year when a series of cases of sexual abuse of minors by foreign men emerged. 

With the European Parliament election less than two months away, the Finnish ballot is being watched in Brussels. A strong result for the Finns Party could bolster a nationalist bloc threatening to shake up EU policy-making. 

Underscoring the growing confidence among far-right politicians in Europe, anti-immigration parties have announced plans to join forces following the May 26 EU election, in a move that could give them major say in how the continent is run. 

Just as the Social Democrats are benefiting from a growing sense of insecurity among Finland’s older and poorer voters, the Finns argue that the nation has gone too far in addressing issues such as climate change and migration at its own expense. 

“We are going through a cultural shock in Finland. Part of the population is in a kind of state of shock amid all the change going on, and as a result they take the Finns Party’s hand,” said Karina Jutila, chief researcher at think tank e2.

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