Anna-Maja Henriksson, the chairperson of the Swedish People’s Party, held a press conference at the party’s head office in Helsinki on Saturday, 27 May 2023. Henriksson on Monday criticised the Finns Party and National Coalition for failure to include other parties in drafting the immigration policy outlines for the next government. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto – Lehtikuva)

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ANNA-MAJA HENRIKSSON, the chairperson of the Swedish People’s Party, has accused the Finns Party and National Coalition of devising the immigration policy outlines by themselves.

“The other parties didn’t listen to us. The Finns Party and National Coalition had drawn up their own base document, which was approved by the Christian Democrats. The Swedish People’s Party didn’t approve it. It wasn’t a genuine negotiation in our view,” she stated to YLE on Monday.

“I hope that everyone understands going forward that you’re trying to create a common government programme, that you have four parties involved [in the negotiations] and that they decide on the programme together. It shouldn’t be that two look for an agreement together and get the others to support it.”

The Swedish People’s Parliamentary Group on Saturday decided to insist on continuing the discussions to amend the policy outlines. Chairperson Anders Adlercreutz on Monday said the climate and immigration-related discussions held over the weekend were “lacking” but added that the group succeeded in introducing revisions, removals, restrictions and specifications to the policy outlines.

Riikka Purra, the chairperson of the Finns Party, contrastively stated that the amendments amounted to no substantial changes.

Henriksson on Monday said the Swedish People’s Party will not make its final decision on whether to join the ruling coalition until the government programme has been finalised.

“Is it something we can approve? I don’t know whether this will result in a government or not. The coming days and weeks will tell.”

The events of recent days have provoked a number of concerned statements from the ranks of the Swedish People’s Party. Julia Ståhle, the chairperson of the party's youth wing, the Swedish Youth, on Monday announced she will withdraw from the coalition formation negotiations, citing a disconnect between the compromise on immigration policy outlines and the objectives of the Swedish People’s Party.

The party, she believes, should abandon the coalition formation negotiations altogether.

Eva Biaudet, one of the most seasoned coalition negotiators in the Swedish People’s Party, revealed to Demokraatti that she would prefer to vacate her seat in the working group on immigration policy, saying the situation is intolerable. Biaudet has repeatedly expressed her reservations about joining a ruling coalition with the Finns Party.

Henriksson told YLE that she has discussed the situation with both Biaudet and Ståhle. The former, she said, is expected to return to the negotiation table today after a one-day break in the meeting schedule of the working group.

Replacing Biaudet’s expertise and experience would be difficult, acknowledged Henriksson.

“I hope that she’ll continue, but she’ll decide for herself how long she wants and has the capacity to participate. I was glad to hear that the message was that she’d be returning tomorrow,” she commented.

Also others have voiced their concerns about the looming prospect of governing with the Finns Party.

Simon Granroth, the outgoing chairperson of the Swedish People’s Party in Helsinki, told Helsingin Sanomat yesterday he is worried about a backlash for the party if the ongoing coalition formation negotiations yield a ruling coalition.

The Swedish People’s Party, he viewed, should rather look to broaden its support and profile itself as a liberal and progressive party.

“I’m afraid that if we get a government programme based on conservative values, it’ll have long-term repercussions for the Swedish People’s Party,” he said to the daily newspaper. “The issues important to us are climate, human rights, liberal markets and otherwise open society. What’s left if these values aren’t reflected in the upcoming government programme?”

Granroth himself is not involved in the negotiations but said he has monitored them from the sidelines with concern.

Patrik Gayer, a former senior aide for the Swedish People’s Party, warned the current party leadership that joining a right-wing ruling coalition could have long-term consequences for the party’s popularity and influence in the political arena. The coalition, he said, would inevitably make decisions that would draw the ire of liberal supporters.

“It’d strengthen the Swedish People’s Party’s image as a single-issue party,” he said to Helsingin Sanomat. “The party could no longer attract Finnish-speaking liberal voters, but it’d increasingly have to focus on more conservative voters outside cities.”

This would go against what he believes are inevitable trends: urbanisation and voters becoming increasingly liberal in terms of values.

He also cautioned against the sunk-cost fallacy, the idea that the party should not abandon the negotiations given how much it has already invested in them even if it meant making more costly compromises on difficult issues.

Gayer added that he is no longer part of the party leadership and has no insider information on the negotiations. “My impression of the situation may be wrong,” he reminded.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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