Finland elections: PM Stubb admits defeat to opposition

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Juha Sipila (L) and Alexander StubbImage source, Reuters/AFP
Image caption,
Millionaire businessman Juha Sipila (left) is now favourite to replace Alexander Stubb as PM

Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb has lost the general election, near complete results show.

With 99% of the votes counted, his conservative National Coalition Party had 18.2% compared to the opposition Centre Party's 21.2%.

"It seems as though the Centre has won. Congratulations," Mr Stubb told Finland's YLE public broadcaster.

The election campaign was dominated by the country's protracted recession and other economic issues.

A year of stagnation in 2014 was preceded by two years of recession and unemployment now stands at 9.2%.

'Coalition combinations'

The Centre Party is led by millionaire former IT executive Juha Sipila.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Finland's economy has been the main issue during the election campaign

The YLE website's tracking of the results put the NCP marginally ahead of the right-wing eurosceptic Finns Party (17.6%) and the Social Democrats (16.5%).

YLE forecast that the Centre Party would get at least 49 seats in the 200-member parliament, while the National Coalition Party would have 37.

"I think this gap will be enough," Mr Sipila told MTV3 broadcaster.

"This result will enable several possible coalition combinations."

Mr Sipila was relatively unknown in Finland until he became leader of the Centre Party three years ago.

He has publicly criticised Mr Stubb's plans to cut 6bn euros (£4.3bn) from budget deficits over the coming four years, dismissing the proposal as unrealistic.

Mr Sipila has pledged to create more than 200,000 jobs in the next 10 years.

Finland's economy has been the main issue during the election campaign.

The governing coalition has struggled to push through reforms, leading to a reduction in support for Mr Stubb ahead of Sunday's vote.