• Centrist prime minister Matti Vanhanen may have new coalition partners after Sunday's poll (Photo: European Community, 2006)

Finland shifts to the right after Sunday elections

19.03.07 @ 09:11

  1. By Lucia Kubosova

Finland's prime minister Matti Vanhanen and his Centre Party have won the parliamentary elections by a margin of one percent, with the boost to the conservative opposition party sparking expections of a shift to the right in the Nordic country's government.

The ruling Centre Party received 23.1 percent of votes on Sunday (18 March), followed closely by the The Conservative National Coalition Party (22.2%) and the Social Democrats (21.5%).

Both current coalition partners - Mr Vanhanen's party plus the social democrats - lost seats in the 200-member parliament, while the conservatives will be represented by ten more MPs compared to the 2003 elections.

Insiders point out that the poll result could see the social democrats pushed to the opposition for the first time in more than a decade.

"The people wanted the Conservatives to grow, that should also be reflected in the government," said the right-wing party's leader Jyrki Katainen, adding "I think it would be very odd if we were not in the next government," according to the BBC.

For his part, Mr Vanhanen told media that "all options are open."

The country of 5.3 million citizens features among the best economic performers in the EU, particularly praised for positive achievements in innovation and education.

The pre-election campaign was dominated by a debate about the country's state of care for the elderly and welfare, including further tax cuts the government aims to introduce.

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