THE RACE BETWEEN the National Coalition, Social Democrats and Finns Party for the right to take the first stab at forming a ruling coalition is heating up with two months left until the parliamentary elections.
YLE on Thursday reported that its latest poll reveals that the three parties are separated only by 3.2 percentage points, with the two opposition parties losing and the ruling party gaining support.
Support for the National Coalition and Finns Party has fallen by 1.4 points and 0.9 points since the previous poll to 21.6 and 18.4 per cent, respectively. With the Social Democrats seeing its popularity creep up by 0.3 points to 19.1 per cent, the order of the three most popular parties has returned to what it was for most of last year.
While the National Coalition has seen its lead halve in the past couple of months, it need not be overly concerned because poll leaders tend to lose their advantage as parties hit the campaign trail, reminded Tuomo Turja, the research director at Taloustutkimus.
“The closer the elections, the closer the top parties. History has shown that even a wide lead in polls tends to melt away once election campaigns get truly underway,” he commented to the public broadcasting company, pointing to the parliamentary elections of 2015.
The Centre won the elections with a vote share of 21.1 per cent, despite having polled at almost 27 per cent at the end of the previous year.
Taloustutkimus interviewed 2,644 people for the poll on 9–31 January.
Turja said the National Coalition is seeing its popularity decline mostly because a growing share of respondents who have previously voted for the right-wing party refrained from disclosing their preference. The share of respondents who were uncertain about their choice has overall increased since the previous poll, with only 69 per cent of respondents disclosing their party of preference.
The elections drawing closer explains also this phenomenon, according to him.
“The election campaigns have started and voters have started to think more carefully about what party will ultimately get their vote. The share of people who are uncertain about their views has increased, and that’s clearly evident here,” he explained.
“I’m sure it’ll be a closely fought race. The National Coalition can’t be certain about its top spot.”
Turja said the Social Democratic Party has succeeded unusually well in light of recent history in maintaining its appeal despite the burden of the premiership.
“Usually the party with the premiership is the one that suffers the most from measures taken during the electoral term. We currently have a popular prime minister and an unusually popular government, meaning these things are probably having an impact,” he said.
The five ruling parties together are projected to secure 51.5 per cent of the vote.
The Green League and Centre Party swapped places as the fourth and fifth most popular parties respectively, with the former gaining 0.7 points to 10.3 per cent and the latter falling by 0.8 points to 10.1 per cent. The Green League was boosted by a reaffirmation of support from a number of earlier supporters, according to Turja.
“The Centre benefits from a well functioning party organisation and election machinery,” he added.
Support for the Left Alliance dropped from 8.6 to 7.6 per cent as some of the ruling party’s supporters began to weigh up their options. The Swedish People’s Party gained 0.4 points to climb to 4.4 per cent, the Christian Democrats 1.1 points to 4.0 per cent and Movement Now 0.5 points to 1.8 per cent.
The Christian Democrats’ resurgence is attributable to support from respondents who had earlier voiced their backing for the Finns Party, said Turja.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT