While opinion research this week has indicated that the Finnish attitudes towards the European Union (EU) are more positive than ever, the ongoing European parliamentary election campaigns show growing polarization.
Laura Huhtasaari, the vice chairman of the populist Finns Party and its key candidate for the European Parliament, said in her debate on the national TV late Thursday that her party would not push for an exit of Finland from the EU, as “the EU would hit back badly”. She promised nationalistic cooperation in the European Parliament towards giving member states more discretion.
On Friday, a poll by national broadcaster, Yle indicated the Finns Party became the largest party in Finland with 18.8 support, followed by the Social Democrats second at 17.8 percent. Also the Greens increased its support. The poll was not specifically designed for the EU election support though.
Yle analyst Matti Koivisto said the Finns Party could increase their seats in the European Parliament from two to three, and the Greens from one to two.
A survey by the think tank, EVA this week indicated a record 56 percent of the Finns have a positive attitude towards the EU and 29 percent are neutral. Negative attitudes got 13 percent.
Polarization on issues such as refugees is reflected in the match-me services that most media houses have released this week.
Alma-Media asked the candidates whether the EU has the duty to rescue from drowning all immigrants trying to cross the Mediterranean. No populist Finns Party candidate backed such mandatory rescue, whereas all respondents from the Left Alliance and the Greens wanted it. While 93 percent of the social democrats insisted on rescue, the backing among Centrists, conservatives and Christian Democrats ranged between 58 and 53.
Attitudes towards environmental reforms reflect the division seen in the parliamentary election campaign. The Greens are the most positive, and the Finns Party candidates the most negative. In the Yle service, all Green League and Left Alliance candidates support a ban on cars using only fossil fuel by 2030. A ban gets a narrow majority among Social Democrats, but majority of conservatives and Centrists are against it. A 55 percent majority of the candidates would accept a joint EU tax on flying.
Trade sanctions between neighboring Russia and the EU split candidate opinions. Sympathy towards Russia is widest in the populist Finns Party, but also seen in the Center Party. In the match-me service of Alma Media, the lifting of sanctions got backing from roughly a third in both of them. Understanding towards Russia was fairly high also among the Christian Democrats and the Left Alliance.
The Green candidates showed the toughest stand in favor of maintaining the sanctions. Also the Social Democrats and the conservative National Coalition Party candidates were clearly supporting continued sanctions.
In Finland, the whole country forms one constituency in the EU Parliamentary election. Observers say this favors people with national visibility and incumbent MEPs. The election takes place in Finland on May 26, and 13 MEPs will be elected.