Finnish opposition Centre leads election: Partial results

AFP , Sunday 19 Apr 2015

Finland's opposition Centre Party came out on top in Sunday's general election, far ahead of the parties in Prime Minister Alexander Stubb's left-right coalition, partial results showed.

If the results were to be confirmed, Centre Party leader Juha Sipila, a 53-year-old IT millionaire and newcomer to politics, would become Finland's next prime minister.

More than a third of the electorate cast their ballots in advance voting and with most of those counted, the Centre Party had 23.2 percent of votes. The conservative National Coalition party had the second largest share, with 17.9 percent.

Public radio and television YLE projected that the Centre Party would have 51 out of 200 seats in parliament.

"I'm really pleased with these results," Sipila said.

Asked if he was convinced he would be the next prime minister, he replied: "Not yet. I'm a pessimist and I don't want to be disappointed."

Sipila campaigned heavily on his business know-how, vowing to get the eurozone country's economy back on track after three years of recession and stagnation, austerity and failed reforms.

Voters were disgruntled with Stubb's four-party left-right government coalition, which has been paralyzed by internal discord and unable to push through any real policy changes.

If the Centre's victory is confirmed, Sipila's first task will be to pick his coalition partners. Tradition dictates that the largest party takes the post of prime minister and forms a government with the other largest parties to obtain a majority in parliament.

Several weeks of thorny negotiations are expected before Sipila is able to present a coalition, and he has not yet revealed which parties he would like to collaborate with.

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