Finnish Social Democrat leader Rinne declares victory in election

A man casts his vote for the parliamentary elections in Helsinki Finland

A populist party that was expected to do well on Sunday railed against public sacrifices in the name of fighting climate change instead of making immigration its main campaign issue, as anti-migrant, euroskeptic counterparts elsewhere in Europe have done.

The success of the Social Democrats would mark a departure for Finland and the region, where leftist parties have struggled in recent years, yielding some of their hold on the working class vote as nationalist parties have emerged.

Polls before the parliamentary election predicted the Social Democrats would place first with voter support of 19%-21%.

But the far-right Finns Party, led by hardline MEP Jussi Halla-aho, saw a surge in support in recent months during their anti-immigration dominated campaign, urging people to "Vote for some borders".

The anti-immigration Finns Party also decries the "climate hysteria" of other parties seeking action against global warming.

He told reporters that the huge increase to his party's parliamentary seat-count - from 17 to 39, just one shy of the Social Democrats - would give his party sway over any future discussion on immigration, whether or not it was a member of the government.

According to Reuters, this is the first time in a century that no party has won more than 20% in an election, and coalition talks are likely to be protracted.

"Some of the questions will be about values", Rinne told Finnish media.

Meanwhile Mr Petteri Orpo, leader of the conservative National Coalition Party and co-architect of the government's savings programme, has repeatedly denounced the Social Democratic Party's anti-austerity plans as "irresponsible". The party was in the opposition in the past four years for the first time in decades.

Outgoing Prime Minister Juha Sipila's Center Party and the populist Finns Party were close with 15.4% and 15.1% respectively.

The Finns Party, which ahead of Sunday's vote has been polling in second place behind the opposition Social Democrats, has been gaining momentum among rural voters and others who find the climate change proposals of other political parties too daunting.

Rinne has been a staunch opponent of the National Coalition's austerity policies over the past four years.

However, in a tacit acknowledgement that the public mood was against further belt-tightening, Orpo has insisted that the economy is now strong enough to allow for some more generous public spending.

"I don't see it as possible that the Finns Party would take part in a government which doesn't clearly commit to reducing humanitarian migration", he added.

At one of its rallies on the eve of the vote in Myyrmaki, a disadvantaged suburb of the capital, a crowd of people, young and old, clamoured around party leader Jussi Halla-aho, asking for autographs and congratulating him on the campaign.

On Sunday he said his party was open to being in a coalition "but not at any cost".

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

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