By MATTI HUUHTANENAssociated Press
HELSINKI (AP) - Finland's three leading political parties retained their top positions in an election for 10,000 local government seats, with gains by a populist euroskeptic party falling below predictions.
With all the votes counted on Monday, conservative Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen's National Coalition Party won with 22 percent of the vote, followed by coalition partner the Social Democrats with 19.6 percent. The leading opposition Center Party came in third with 18.7 percent.
The populist Finns party, which made huge gains in last year's parliamentary election to become the country's third largest political force, dropped to fourth place in Sunday's local elections, winning 12 percent of the vote. It made the greatest gains of any party - up 7 percent from the previous regional election four years ago - but fell short of its own target of 15 percent.
The results bolstered the pro-EU, six-party ruling coalition that supports aid for ailing fellow members of the 17-nation bloc that uses the common euro currency. But election issues focused largely on traditional concerns such as health care, public services and merging or cutting the number of municipalities.
Turnout was 58 percent of the 4.3 million electorate, down from 61 percent in the previous local elections in 2008. It was the third election in 18 months in the Nordic nation, following a presidential vote in February and parliamentary elections in April 2011.
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