A Finnish political party that campaigned against ambitious climate change policies won the second-highest number of seats in parliamentary elections on Sunday, in a vote in which global warming became a polarizing issue.
The Finns Party did even better than predicted by recent polls during the campaign. It was almost tied in the popular vote with the winning party.
Although the Finns, a right-wing populist party, is unlikely to be part of a new government, its performance Sunday may give it more of a voice in the country’s politics.
The vote reflected a growing fragmentation among voters.
While the other eight parties running for office endorse strong measures to fight climate change, the Finns Party seized on the issue as a new front in culture wars. It argued that aggressive climate change policies are an elitist approach that hurts the working class.
A similar dynamic set off the “Yellow Vest” protests against a fuel tax increase in France. And Germany’s far-right party, Alternative for Germany, has assailed the science behind clean-air policy.
The Finns Party, which has long put forward an anti-immigration agenda, won 39 seats, just one seat fewer than the top vote getters, the Social Democrats. The Finns claimed during the campaign that Finland had been overtaken by climate hysteria and that the country has done more than its fair share on the issue.
Yet parties that support environmental action also made significant gains in Sunday’s vote. The environmentally focused Greens party secured 20 seats — its highest number ever. And the Left Alliance, which also backs an ambitious climate agenda, had its first win since 1995, securing 16 seats.
The vote brought mixed results for the parties that have led the country in a coalition government for the past four years. The Center Party, a centrist agrarian party that led the previous government, slipped to fourth place, losing 18 seats. But the center-right National Coalition Party, which was also part of the coalition, gained one seat, for a total of 38.
The campaign revealed a gender divide in the country, with men accounting for 80 percent of the Finns Party’s support. But when the ballot casting was done, Finns had voted in the most female lawmakers in their history. Women will now hold 92 out of Parliament’s 200 seats, up from 83 in the last election.
As the winning party, however narrow its margin, the Social Democrats will now try to form a coalition government with other parties under the leadership of its chairman, Antti Rinne — a process that is likely to be complicated by the close result.
All of the other parties have expressed reservations about entering a coalition with the Finns Party.
There may be some added urgency because Finland is due to take over the rotating presidency of the European Union on July 1, at a time when the bloc is struggling to negotiate the terms of Britain’s pending departure.