THE SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY has the upper hand over the National Coalition in the tussle for the status of the most popular political party in Finland.
YLE on Thursday reported that popular support for the opposition party has surged by 2.7 percentage points to 23.5 per cent in the past month, with the party picking up support not only from red-green parties and inactive voters, but also from the National Coalition.
The Social Democratic Party won 19.9 per cent of the votes cast in the parliamentary elections in April. Antti Lindtman, who took over the reins of the opposition party in September, has made a flying start to his leadership tenure as the party has attacked the government over economic and employment policy.
Support for the National Coalition, meanwhile, has fallen by 1.3 points to 20.2 per cent since September. The Finns Party saw its popularity decline by 0.2 points to 17.3 per cent, almost three points lower than its vote share in the parliamentary elections held in April.
“The Finns Party’s support has broadly speaking been going down at a pace of nearly a point per month. This time you can say that there was hardly any decline in its support,” Tuomo Turja, the research director of Taloustutkimus, analysed for YLE on Thursday.
The Centre Party seems not to have benefited from the media attention it received for presenting the first interpellation of the electoral term, with its popularity falling from 10.7 to 10.3 per cent. The interpellation raised eyebrows because it concerned the funding of well-being services counties, which is determined by the social and health care reform carried out by the previous government.
The current government has yet to make any changes to the funding of the counties, which have announced significant belt-tightening programmes during the course of the autumn.
“Only the government can submit bills to fix the situation. The fact that a reform was carried out by the previous government doesn’t take away the government’s responsibility to fix things,” Annika Saarikko, the chairperson of the Centre, explained to Helsingin Sanomat on 1 October.
The Green League and Left Alliance swapped places as the fifth and sixth most popular parties as the former fell from 9.1 to 8.7 per cent and the latter from 9.8 to 8.5 per cent. Both opposition parties are thus projected to improve on their performance in the parliamentary elections.
The Swedish People’s Party gained 0.2 points to rise to 4.2 per cent and Movement Now a point to rise to 2.2 per cent. The Christian Democrats, by contrast, saw its popularity fall from 3.7 to 3.4 per cent.
Consisting of the National Coalition, Finns Party, Swedish People’s Party and Christian Democrats, the ruling right-wing coalition has the backing of 45.1 per cent of the public, representing a drop of 4.3 points from their combined vote share in April.
The government unveiled its first budget proposal last month, drawing criticism from opposition parties for cutting social security benefits, relaxing the tax burden of high-income earners and failing to have an impact on the debt trend despite the campaign promise of the National Coalition. The 87.9-billion-euro budget shows a deficit of 11.5 billion euros, 1.4 billion euros larger than estimated in August.
Its plans to slash earnings-based unemployment security, restrict the right to industrial action and promote local bargaining have also created unrest on the labour market.
The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) announced earlier this week it and its member unions will organise a series of one-day strikes starting next week. The Industrial Union, Service Union United (PAM) and the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL) detailed the first strikes yesterday, revealing they will each stage up to day-long work stoppages at up to two dozen workplaces in central and northern Finland on Tuesday, 7 November.
Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday reported that SAK is also drawing up plan for a large-scale strike for early next year.
Taloustutkimus interviewed 2,395 people for the YLE poll on 4–31 October. Three-quarters, or 1,801, of the people were able and willing to disclose which party would receive their vote if the parliamentary elections were held now.
The poll results have a margin of error of two points.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT