The National Coalition and the Social Democrats faced an anxious wait on Thursday before Prime Minister-designate Juha Sipilä (Centre) announced that he will ask the former to join the Centre and the Finns Party in negotiations over the formation of a right-wing coalition.
Anticipation at the Finnish Parliament Annex was tangible on Thursday evening as reporters gathered to find out which party leaders would storm out of the auditorium first.
Paavo Arhinmäki, the chairperson of the Left Alliance, was unsurprisingly the first to appear before the press to bemoan that negotiations over the formation of a right-wing coalition have indeed begun. The decision of Sipilä does not bode well for Finland, he warned.
The appearance of Antti Rinne, the chairperson of the Social Democrats, stirred pandemonium. Ville Niinistö, the chairperson of the Green League, admitted that he had hoped that the election result of the Green League would have warranted an invitation to the negotiations. Finland will instead receive a conservative right-wing government, he estimated.
Carl Haglund, the chairperson of the Swedish People's Party, appeared before the press visibly distraught as the Swedish People's Party had been considered as the only minor party with a genuine chance to wiggle into the negotiations. The Swedish People's Party has been in power since the late 1970s.
Sipilä, however, ruled the party out only half an hour before sitting down with his fellow party leaders.
He revealed in the press conference that his objective after the elections had been to forge a coalition between all four of the major parties but had to concede that it would be impossible.
He also revealed that the Centre, the Finns Party and the National Coalition were able to find common ground on issues concerning immigration and the European Union, despite the Finns Party pursuing a hard-line immigration policy that differs notably from that pursued by the National Coalition.
The three parties will next seek measures to tackle the economic woes of Finland. Sipilä on Thursday stressed that the measures must be as equal as possible to guarantee that every Finn can keep step with the changes. “We have a rocky road ahead of us to find answers for the problems of Finland,” he said.
His colleagues from the Finns Party and the National Coalition, Timo Soini and Alexander Stubb, addressed members of the media in a solemn manner. Sipilä, in turn, tried to lighten the mood by pointing out that the surnames of the party leaders all start with the letter S (fi. ässä) – “a government of three aces”.
Soini admitted that the Finns Party had some leverage in the negotiations in the wake of its vote share in the elections. He also assured that he gets along with the National Coalition, reminding that he chaired the Espoo City Council at a time when there were three times as many councillors from the National Coalition than there were from the Finns Party.
“It'll also work out this time. I'm a jovial and nice man after all,” Soini said.
Stubb assured that he was positive. “Now, it all depends on how we can lift Finland by creating jobs and economic growth.”
Finland, he underscored, must do its utmost to stay open, tolerant and international as well as to save its welfare system.
Rinne, in turn, was disappointed but not surprised. He viewed that the Social Democratic Party was ruled out because of its pursuit of objectives that did not sit well with “the overall thought process” cited repeatedly by Sipilä.
He rejected suggestions that the collapse of negotiations over a social contract had any bearing on the decision of Sipilä. “[...] We would've been ready to shoulder responsibility but not without any conditions, as I stated before the party conference,” said Rinne.
There was no room for the objective of the Social Democrats to combat inequality, increase equality, improve the quality of working life and adopt a more equal approach to taxation and spending cuts in the three-party coalition, Rinne added.
Martta Nieminen – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
© HELSINGIN SANOMAT