Finland eyes left-right coalition to keep populists out

Finns can expect a broad, ineffective coalition government for the next four years as the Social Democrats, who narrowly won weekend elections, focus on keeping the surging anti-immigration populists out, analysts said.

The polls were closely watched to see how the nationalists would do ahead of European Parliament elections in May when many believe they and the eurosceptic camp as a whole could make significant inroads.

As Finland's politicos digested on Sunday's vote, the big question on Monday was what role the far-right anti-immigration Finns Party, which more than doubled its seats in parliament under the leadership of hardline nationalist Jussi Halla-aho, would play.

The Social Democrats came in as Finland's biggest party with 17.7 percent of the votes, just ahead of the Finns Party on 17.5 per cent.

Halla-aho told Finnish media he did not want to repeat the mistakes his party made in 2015 when it entered government and was forced to compromise on immigration and EU bailouts.

"We were flexible about the wrong things," he told Finland's biggest newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.

"I don't see it as possible that the Finns Party would take part in a government which doesn't clearly commit to reducing humanitarian migration," he added.

On the campaign trail, Halla-aho told supporters he wanted to see the refugee intake reduced to "almost zero".

(with news agency inputs)