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Anti-EU nationalists soar in Finland's EU vote

HELSINKI (AFP) Finland's nationalist and eurosceptic True Finns party won a European parliament seat for the first time Sunday as ruling parties suffered losses, final results showed.

The True Finns' support soared to 9.8 percent from 0.5 percent in the previous European elections in 2004, taking one of Finland's 13 seats in the EU assembly.

Party leader Timo Soini won some 130,400 direct votes, more than any other candidate, according to the results.

"Timo Soini's True Finns have won these elections. For us this is a loss, our support is going downwards. Responsibility weighs," Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said in an interview with public broadcaster YLE.

The True Finns party, which has called for tighter immigration rules and is highly eurosceptic, has in recent years seen a sharp rise in support.

"We got support from the left and all over. Many people who did not vote in previous EU elections voted for us now. We had a good, credible, EU-critical campaign and good candidates," Soini told YLE.

Vanhanen's Centre party's support fell to 19.0 percent, down 4.4 percentage points from the previous EU elections, while Finance Minister Jyrki Katainen's conservative National Coalition party dropped by 0.5 percentage points to 23.2 percent of votes.

Both parties took three seats each.

The biggest opposition party, the Social Democrats, won two seats, down one from last time, and took 17.5 percent of votes which was a decrease of 3.7 percentage points from 2004.

One of the two Social Democratic seats went to Mitro Repo, an outspoken Orthodox priest who was banned by the church from serving as a priest because he chose to stand as a candidate in the election.

The Greens took 12.4 percent of votes and two seats.

The Swedish People's Party, representing Finland's Swedish speaking minority, will have one representative in the parliament, with 6.1 percent of votes.

The True Finns' strong support helped the Christian Democrats to win one seat. The two parties formed an alliance in the elections and the Christian Democrats garnered 4.2 percent of votes.

Voter turnout dropped to 40.3 percent from 41.4 percent in 2004, according to government figures.

Last Updated (Monday, 08 June 2009 08:07)


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