Parties opposed to bailouts may join Finnish coalition

 

AFTER A dramatic weekend election, Finland’s new government may be a three-way coalition, including two parties opposed to euro zone bailouts.

Helsinki’s new administration is likely to be headed by the conservative pro-EU National Coalition party (NCP) with two coalition partners – the True Finns and Social Democrats (SDP) – who between them garnered nearly 40 per cent of the total vote with campaign promises to stop loans to Lisbon.

“We’ll renegotiate [so] our money isn’t thrown into mechanisms that don’t work,” said Mr Timo Soini, leader of the True Finns party, which jumped 15 points to finish third with 19 per cent support.

“We won’t dictate the terms for the whole of Europe, but we will insist on holding on to Finland’s decision-making powers and money.”

Promising to seek a majority to block aid to Portugal, he added: “The Finnish cow should be milked in Finland and the milk shouldn’t be sent abroad in charity.”

NCP leader Jyrki Katainen, Finland’s likely future prime minister, promised voters before the election to work only with EU-friendly parties prepared to back future bailouts.

However, after his previous coalition partner fell into fourth place on Sunday, he said yesterday it was in keeping with voter wishes to hold talks with the True Finns and the SDP.

“This is a very probable option that would tally with the results of the election. Now we have to solve content issues,” Mr Katainen said.

“Finland has always been a responsible European Union country. I’m convinced the new government, whoever is in it, will want to continue this policy.”

Finnish newspapers agreed that Sunday’s vote made election history, shattering the country’s previous political model.

The True Finns party quadrupled its vote to finish just under one percentage point behind the leading NCP.

Mr Soini won 43,000 direct votes to become by far the most popular politician in the country.

“They undoubtedly have every right to a seat in government, but this path may end in coalition negotiations if Katainen and Soini remain firmly entrenched in their opposing positions on the bailout of Portugal,” the influential Helsingin Sanomat daily forecast.

Other analysts suggested that after the election result, Mr Katainen was morally obliged to bring Mr Soini and his party into government.

“They couldn’t leave the True Finns out of government after this landslide,” said emeritus Prof Tuomo Martikainen at the University of Helsinki. “It would make a mockery of democracy.”