Polls close in Finland's elections with leftists poised to win

Surveys suggest Social Democrats, who pledge to boost Finland's welfare system, will become largest party in parliament.

    The Social Democrats - led by Antti Rinne - have not held the prime minister position since 2003 [Lehtikuva/Antti Aimo-Koivisto via Reuters]
    The Social Democrats - led by Antti Rinne - have not held the prime minister position since 2003 [Lehtikuva/Antti Aimo-Koivisto via Reuters]

    Polls have closed in Finland's general elections which is expected to usher in the first leftist prime minister in two decades.

    The opposition Social Democrats, the nationalist-populist Finns Party and the conservatives were in a tight race on Sunday for gaining majority seats in a new 200-seat parliament.

    The results are expected to be released late on Sunday or early on Monday.

    Recent opinion polls suggested the Social Democrats would become the largest party, which traditionally offered the post of prime minister, with just under 20 percent of the vote.

    The party - led by Antti Rinne - has not held the top job since 2003. Rinne favours work-related immigration to compensate for Finland's ageing population, but also allowing in some refugees on humanitarian grounds, as the country has done thus far.

    The Finns Party are running second with 16.3 percent support, after scoring rapid gains since the start of the year when cases of sexual abuse of minors by foreign men emerged.

    Just as the Social Democrats are benefiting from a growing sense of insecurity among Finland's older and poorer voters, the Finns argue the nation has gone too far in addressing issues such as climate change and migration at its own expense.

    The next government will inherit some unfinished business, including a reform of the health care system that has been debated for over a decade.

    The results are expected to be released late on Sunday or early on Monday [Lehtikuva/Emmi Korhonen via Reuters]

    With the European Parliament election less than two months away, the Finnish ballot is being watched in Brussels.

    A strong result for the Finns Party could bolster a nationalist bloc threatening to shake up the European Union's policy-making.

    Anti-immigration parties have announced plans to join forces after the May 26 EU election in a move that could give them a major say in how the continent is run.

    In July, Finland takes over the rotating EU presidency from Romania

    Finland struggles with influx of refugees (03:00)

    SOURCE: News agencies