Socialists poised to come top in Finnish election
Finns are forecast to elect Finland’s first left-wing prime minister in 20 years in today’s general election, as voters worry over the future of Finland’s welfare system amid the rising costs of caring for an ageing population.
According to polling, the Social Democrats’ ability to govern may be undermined by rising support for the Finns, a populist party led by Jussi Halla-aho, 47, an anti-immigrant hardliner.
A survey for broadcaster Yle estimated the Social Democrats would gain the most votes with 19 per cent of the vote, giving their leader, Antti Rinne (pictured), the first attempt at forming an administration.
The Finns party was forecast to gain 16.3-per-cent support, capitalising on cases emerging this year of child-sex abuse by foreign men.
Last month, the government of then prime minister Juha Sipila resigned after failing to pass a central policy goal on social welfare and health care reform. His Centre Party had governed in coalition since the 2015 general election.
Sipila expressed concern about Finland’s welfare budget as the population aged. To cut Finland’s debt, the planned reforms hoped to save up to €3 billion over a decade.
Rinne has called Sipila’s policies unfair.
Finland’s “tax wedge”, the difference between take-home pay and what the employer pays, was above average among industrialised countries, reported the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
However, polling by the tax authority in 2017 alleged that 79 per cent of Finns were happy with their relatively high taxes.
Rinne, a former trade union boss, wants to raise taxes to fund welfare and reduce inequality, which he says has risen under the ruling centre-right coalition of Sipila.
“We need to spread our tax base and we need to strengthen it,” Rinne told the media. The move would mark a “big policy change” for Finland, he added.
One of Rinne’s electoral pledges is to increase the state pension for those receiving €1,400 a month by €100, helping “more than 55,000 pensioners escape poverty”.
Rinne, 56, says he offers a “middle way” on immigration, favouring work-related migration to compensate for the rapidly ageing population.
He also advocated allowing some refugees asylum on humanitarian grounds.
The leftist might struggle to form a coalition, with finance minister Petteri Orpo’s National Coalition likely to come third. Orpo says Rinne’s spending promises are “irresponsible”.
Rinne has ruled out forming a government with the Finns.
With European parliamentary elections in late May, today’s election is being watched in Brussels, where a populist surge would unsettle other parties.
Socialist hopeful Antti Rinne. Picture credit: Wikimedia