Finn PM sneaks home in tight poll outcome pleases Brussels

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The Independent Online
TO MUCH relief in Brussels, Paavo Lipponen looked likely to hang on to power yesterday as Finland's Prime Minister at the head of a centrist, pro-EU coalition, after earlier seeming to face defeat in a cliffhanger general election on Sunday.

Thanks to a surge in late returns, Mr Lipponen's Social Democratic Party pipped the agrarian Centre party to remain the largest single party with 51 seats, against 48 for the Centre Party and 46 for the Conservative Party, Mr Lipponen's main partner in the ruling "rainbow coalition".

A similar alliance is expected to underpin the next government, but after their best electoral performance the Conservatives are likely to demand an increase in their five cabinet seats.

The premier, considered his country's most powerful politician ahead of President Martti Ahtisaari, was the driving force behind Finland's entry into the single currency, cementing the transition from it being an uneasy neighbour of Russia to the European mainstream. He is seen as a key to a successful Finnish presidency of the EU later this year.