Riikka Purra, the chairperson of the Finns Party, attended a meeting of representatives from all parliamentary groups in the Parliament House in Helsinki on 14 April 2023. Purra said this week Petteri Orpo, the chairperson of the National Coalition, has done a rather good job at leading the coalition formation process. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)


THE LEADERS of Finnish political parties are keeping their cards close to the chest in regards to the ongoing coalition formation process led by Petteri Orpo, the chairperson of the National Coalition.

Riikka Purra, the chairperson of the Finns Party, reminded YLE on Wednesday that Orpo is in charge of the process. “In my view he’s doing a pretty good job,” she commented.

Orpo estimating that the two right-wing parties have work to do particularly to reconcile their views on immigration is only natural, according to Purra. “Immigration is specifically the topic where we stand out the most from all other parties. That we’ve talking about these topics is completely normal.”

The National Coalition and Finns Party will together hold 94 of the 200 seats in the Finnish Parliament, meaning that in order to secure an effective majority they would need support also from the Christian Democrats and Swedish People’s Party.

Whether the Finns Party and Swedish People’s Party can find common ground on divisive issues such as immigration remains unknown, admitted Purra. “I hope that we can find a mutually satisfactory compromise on these critical questions. But it does require that our immigration policy is tightened significantly,” she said to the public broadcasting company.

While the Finns Party does support front-loading earnings-based unemployment benefits, it has yet to comment definitively on its willingness to cut the eligibility period for the benefit – another change pursued by the National Coalition.

“Everything else will be negotiated. I naturally know what’s the National Coalition’s stance, but it seems that other parties disagree with it,” said Purra.

The Social Democratic Party is not prepared to stagger the earnings-based benefit but is prepared to discuss certain other unemployment security-related reforms, according to Matias Mäkynen, a deputy chairperson of the Social Democrats.

Also he declined to go into detail, however.

The National Coalition’s objective of adjusting public finances by six billion euros, however, does appear incompatible with the goals of the Social Democrats. “As [the Ministry of Finance’s] budget chief stated today, it’ll be very difficult to adjust to the tune of six billion euros without touching social and health care,” reminded Mäkynen.

“Our threshold issues are: we don’t want to cut from social and health care services, education or social security,” he stated.

Mäkynen estimated that the most likely outcome of the coalition formation process is a government founded on the National Coalition and Finns Party.

The Swedish People’s Party is not surprised by the major role it has taken on in the process – the party being likely needed to reach a ruling majority whatever the approach taken by Orpo. The party has indicated its preference for a coalition built on a union between the National Coalition and Social Democrats over one between the National Coalition and Finns Party.

The Finns Party and Swedish People’s Party disagree most markedly on immigration, climate action and the status of the Swedish language.

“At least I’ve received messaged indicating that we have a labour shortages and industries need workers. We have a staff shortage in social and health care services. The age pyramid is such that we won’t manage without immigration,” Hanna-Maja Henriksson, the chairperson of the Swedish People’s Party, stated to YLE.

She did not confess to enjoying her role as a kingmaker.

“I’ve been in politics for such a long time that I know that no one can get through all their objectives,” she said to YLE. “The ball remains in the court of the negotiator and National Coalition.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT