HELSINKI (AFP) -- Finland voted Sunday in a general election in which the Social Democratic Party appeared set to topple the centre-right government after four years of spending cuts, with the far-right predicted to make large gains.
The left-wing social democrats lead Finland's two main opinion polls with about 19 percent of the vote, having campaigned against the austerity policies of Center Party Prime Minister Juha Sipila and his Finance Minister Petteri Orpo -- leader of the conservative National Coalition Party.
But the far-right Finns Party, led by hardline MEP Jussi Halla-aho, has seen a surge in support in recent months during an anti-immigration dominated campaign, urging people to "Vote for some borders".
Polls show the party ending up in second or third place, meaning it could play a significant role in the next government, which in Finland is typically a coalition of three or four parties.
A record 1.5 million Finns, over a third of the electorate, had already cast their ballots during a week of advance voting earlier this month.
The opposition Social Democratic Party has promised to address widespread public concern that public spending was cut too harshly in recent years as the economy struggled to emerge from the recession that followed the 2008 financial crash.
Cutbacks to Finland's prized education system drew particular criticism from MPs on all sides.
However, opinion polls suggest the social democrats' lead has narrowed in recent weeks to as little as two points ahead of the National Coalition and the Finns Party, which are neck-and-neck in second place.
Some have blamed the shrinking lead on the inability of party leader Antti Rinne, a 56-year-old former trade union boss, to attract large numbers of new, younger voters.
The growing Finns Party ratings, on the other hand, appear to be driven by new supporters who have not voted in the past.
The Finns Party has run a vocal campaign calling for asylum-based immigration to be reduced to almost zero, and decrying the "climate hysteria" of other parties seeking action against global warming.
Forecasts suggest no party is likely to draw more than 20 percent of the vote, meaning the result could be historically close.
This could make negotiations to form a governing coalition particularly difficult, not least because the major parties have all expressed strong reservations about joining a government with the