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Finnish politicians relieved on French presidential election

Xinhua, April 24, 2017 Adjust font size:

The entry of Emmanuel Macron to the second round of the French presidential election on Sunday was welcomed by the Finnish government and centrists and conservatives alike, while the populists kept quiet.

Prime Minister Juha Sipila, from the Center Party, said he was pleased that "a reform-minded and pro-Europe candidate" had received the largest share in the first round.

The setting is now quite clear for the second round between pro-Europe and anti-EU attitudes, he said.

Finnish Finance Minister Petter Orpo, from the conservative National Coalition Party, also expressed his pleasure, saying he hoped the French would now take "good decisions" when voting in the second round, as it involved the future of Europe.

Foreign Minister Timo Soini, from the populist Finns Party, was unwilling to give any direct comment. He said, however, that regardless of who wins on May 7, the "old parties" had collapsed.

"Macron has no (Members of Parliament) in the National Assembly and Le Pen has perhaps two," Soini said.

The three ministers were interviewed together by the national broadcaster Yle outside the prime minister's residence on Monday.

In Finnish media, Patja Pelli, an analyst for the leading newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, said that besides crushing the traditional French political setup, the election result may also be breaking the wave of nationalism and anti-EU attitudes that were empowered through the victory of President Donald Trump in the United States and the British EU-exit vote.

Juhana Aunesluoma, director of the Network of European Studies at the University of Helsinki, said Monday that Macron could bring "new leadership" to the EU, where Germany now has a leading position.

Aunesluoma admitted, however, that much depended on the kind of support Macron would get in the French National Assembly, but believed the voiced support by center-rightest Francois Fillon and socialist Benoit Hamon for Macron were signs of future cooperation.

France will arrange parliamentary elections in June. The center-right is expected to achieve moderate success. That would contribute to a government basis that would work together with the president, Aunesluoma said.

In the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday, centrist candidate and former minister of economy Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen came out on top, according to projections by polling agencies and official partial results.

An updated estimation by research firm Elabe for local broadcaster BFMTV indicates that Macron leads with 24 percent of votes, and Le Pen 21.8 percent.

The two leading candidates are set to face off in the runoff on May 7. A poll late Sunday from Ipsos/Sopra Steria showed that Macron would likely win that runoff by 62 percent to 38 percent. Endit