Center-left party wins Finland parliamentary election

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A woman is seen at a polling station during voting for the parliamentary elections, in Helsinki, Finland April 14, 2019.

The Social Democrats and the nationalist Finns Party were nearly tied in first place in Sunday's general election, with 17.7% and 17.5% of votes respectively, justice ministry data showed.

Finland's leftist Social Democrats and the nationalist Finns Party emerged almost tied to win Sunday's general election, reflecting a mounting sense of insecurity in the Nordic nation over immigration, welfare and climate change. Centrist leader Juha Sipila said his party would remain open in whether to join the government and the decision would depend on the negotiation.

"I certainly could never have expected a result like this", an elated Halla-aho said.

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. The conservative National Coalition Party finished in third place with 17 percent of the vote and 38 seats. If that proves true Sunday, the top vote-getter typically would try to form a new government with other parties as partners.

Meanwhile, the Finns Party, which won 39 seats, had focused nearly entirely on an anti-immigration agenda under the leadership of hardline MEP Jussi Halla-aho, who also decried the "climate hysteria" of the other parties.

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One of the more likely outcomes appears to be a six-seat majority government formed by the Social Democrats, National Coalition, Green League and Swedish People's Party.

But Social Democrat leader Antti Rinne, 56, a former union boss, was expected to have the first shot at forming a government, with most party leaders having ruled out cooperation with the Finns.

Around lunchtime the leaders of the main parties were seen casting their ballots in their constituencies: Halla-aho in Helsinki, Rinne in the town of Mantsala in the south, and Petteri Orpo in the southwest city of Turku. The Finns Party used the debate as a wedge issue to attract voters skeptical of the costs of further action.

Some 36% of eligible voters have already cast their ballots in advance, choosing between 2,500 candidates from 19 political parties and movements for the Eduskunta legislature's 200 seats. "The future is a big question for us, all this climate changing, education systems reforming. all kind of things are very important" to Finland's people, he said.

The populist, euroskeptic Finns Party, which has been polling in second place with 16% support, has been gaining momentum among rural voters and others who find the climate change sacrifices proposed by other political parties too daunting.

Finland is boosting its nuclear energy production by launching a new plant next year and lawmakers last month voted to completely phase out burning coal by 2029.

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