Finland’s leftist Social Democrats won a parliamentary election on Sunday by a slight margin with 18.9 percent of votes, partial results showed, amid mounting concern among voters over the future of the country’s expensive welfare system, Trend reports citing Reuters.
The center-right National Coalition of outgoing Finance Minister Petteri Orpo came in second, with 16.7 percent of the advance votes, after 47 percent of ballots were counted. The Centre Party of Prime Minister Juha Sipila scored third, with 15.5 percent.
If final results confirm the outcome, Social Democrat leader Antti Rinne could become Finland’s first leftist prime minister in two decades. But the process of putting together a coalition could be drawn out because a fragmented parliament.
Public broadcaster Yle is expected to publish its forecast of the final election result at 1830 GMT.
“For the first time in a long time, Social Democrats are the largest party,” Rinne, a 56-year-old former union leader, told reporters.
With the top contenders running close, the final results could still show another group winning and getting the first shot at forming a government.
A relatively strong showing by the nationalist Finns Party, which scored 15.4 percent, could further complicate coalition talks, with most party leaders ruling out any cooperation with them.
At the stake in the election is the future shape of Finland’s welfare system, a pillar of the Nordic social model, which the leftists want to preserve through tax hikes and the center-right wants to see streamlined because of rising costs.