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Inside Election Night – Here’s What Jussi Halla-aho, Li Andersson and Antti Rinne Said to Finland Today

Inside Election Night – Here’s What Jussi Halla-aho, Li Andersson and Antti Rinne Said to Finland Today
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Jussi Halla-aho, chairman of the Finns Party, arriving at the election night event at the Little Parliament building on April 14, 2019. Halla-aho received the largest number of votes in the elections: 30,527. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

On Sunday evening, after the polls had closed and the people of Finland cast their votes in the parliamentary election, the press from home and abroad gathered in the Little Parliament building, expecting the arrival of party leaders and the announcement of advance voting results, which could indicate the outcome of the election.

The advance results were announced at eight o’clock, predicting a victory for the Social Democrat (SDP). They were followed closely by the National Coalition Party. The Centre Party came in third in votes, followed closely by the Finns Party, but the fourth-placed Finns overtook the Centre Party in the number of parliament seats. According to these initial results, the Centre Party suffered the biggest loss in this election. 

Exiting Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre) and Pekka Haavisto, chairman of the Green League. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

The Greens took fifth place and seemed poised for a noteworthy increase in parliament seats. The Left Alliance secured sixth place in advance voting. These results showed the five top parties were very close to each other, as opinion polls had predicted, which could mean difficult government negotiations ahead.

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The seventh-placed Swedish People’s Party speculated that their result would go up once the election day votes are counted. The Christian Democrats’ Sari Essayah considered their advance result a victory, coming in eighth. Blue Reform received one percent of votes in advance voting, which would not improve throughout the night, leaving them without a seat in parliament. The fringe Movement Now, on the other hand, was poised to win a seat. 

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“It has been one of our central aims to politicize the question of immigration.”

Jussi Halla-aho

Chairman of the Finns Party

Supporters of the Blue Reform Party at Vastarannan Kiiski beer restaurant. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

As the evening continued and the party leaders gave cautious replies to speculations about potential government coalitions, the votes kept coming in. The Finns party gradually jumped to second place, overtaking the National Coalition Party and closing the gap between them and the leading SDP. It became clear the party would end the night with a better result than opinion polls had indicated, which created quite a stir among other parties, most of whom had been critical of The Finns’ leader Jussi Halla-aho’s anti-immigration rhetoric.

Halla-aho spoke to Finland Today about immigration and its apparent importance to voters. “It has been one of our central aims to politicize the question of immigration,” he said. “It has been something outside of the normal political debate in Finland, just as in many other Western European countries. The worst example is probably our dear western neighbor, Sweden, where the situation has become, in my opinion, catastrophic. And we want to avoid that kind of development in Finland. But in order to do that, we must bring immigration into the political debate, so that it can be debated just like any other issue in society.”

We asked him about his position on the issue of European integration. He said: “We are very critical of the European Union as a political union. We do not want a deeper and more integrated Europe. We want a European Union that brings real added value to its member states and citizens. One very good example is the shared control of our external borders. It’s much more cost efficient, it’s much easier to control illegal or irregular migration together than if each member state has to do that alone. But if the European Union fails to do that, we will be in trouble. Then we will lose the Schengen Area, then the member states will resort to national solutions to these issues.” 

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WATCH OUR COVERAGE OF THE ELECTION NIGHT:

Li Andersson, chairwoman of the Left Alliance, got the second largest number of votes: 24,404. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

We asked Li Andersson of the Left Alliance, who was a vocal critic of the Finns Party, about the prospects of entering a government coalition and whether the fragmentation of the votes between the top five parties could improve their negotiating position. She said: “It might. But it depends very much on which end result will prevail. As we’re seeing now, it seems to be a very tight race in terms of seats.” When asked if they would be open to cooperating with the Finns Party, should they secure the victory, Andersson replied: “No, we would prefer not to.” 

Antti Rinne, chairman of the Social Democratic Party, is likely to become the government negotiator, which will not be an easy task. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Antti Rinne spent most of the time with the press not wishing to speculate on government negotiations until results were final. We asked him about how they propose to raise employment in Finland, should they win the election. “There are many ways to do that,” he responded. “There are short-term items; for example, to create more work for people who do not find work so easily. There is the public sector who needs to do that. Then there are long-term items; for example, schooling, education. We need to get all Finnish youth secondary level education. That’s a big question for us. When we are thinking about unemployment levels, that’s a very important thing.”

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Towards midnight most votes had been counted, but the situation was still too close to call. The top three parties were all within one seat of one another, with the Finns trailing behind the Social Democrats by a mere 0,2 percent. With around 10 percent of the votes still uncounted, the third-placed National Coalition Party hoped the votes from the Helsinki region would give them an edge over the Finns Party.

Once all votes were counted, however, nothing else changed. Social Democrats won with 40 seats, the Finns party came in second with 39, followed by the National Coalition with 38 seats. The Centre Party ended up in fourth place with 31 seats, a disappointing result for them.

Then came the Greens with 20 seats and the Left Alliance with 16 seats. Finally, the Swedish People’s party secured 9 seats and the Christian Democrats remained at 5 seats, which is the same result as they had in the previous election. Movement Now won a seat in parliament as well.

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Jan Artiček

Political reporter

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