After the hard-fought elections on Sunday, Finland faces a devilish government formation. The winner, Petteri Orpo, leader of the conservative National Coalition Party, announced on election night his desire to meet with all parties. Given that less than one point separates the conservatives, populists and social democrats with 20% each, it will be necessary to forge a coalition with at least three parties.
Orpo will now have to choose his government partner. A natural alliance would be to agree on a center-right tripartite with the ultras of the Party of Finland, which were the second most voted, but together they only have 94 deputies in a Parliament (“Eduskunta”) where the absolute majority is set at 101 seats. As the third partner, the centrists would be preferred, but her leader, Finance Minister Annikka Saarikko, has expressed her desire to go into opposition after eight years in power and the worst results in her history.
As an alternative to the Center Party, Orpo could go to two small formations –Christian Democrats and Liike Nyt–, which would contribute six deputies, but together they would be one seat away from the absolute majority. Or include in the Government the Swedish People’s Party, which represents the Swedish-speaking minority, but which maintains many differences with the extreme right and its anti-immigration, euorophobic and climate change denier program.
The second possible government coalition would go through governing with the Social Democrats of the defeated Prime Minister, Sanna Marin. The SDP leader has offered Orpo a coalition agreement, but the differences in economic policy between the two seem insurmountable. The conservative leader anticipates that his priority will be to get Finland out of recession and reduce the high public debt (73% of GDP). “There is a key issue for us, and that is that all the parties of the next government commit to reforming and fixing our economy,” says Orpo. Marin refuses to enter any government that implements cuts in education, health and social services. On the other hand, the economic positions between conservatives and ultra-rightists are closer.
In short, the Nordic country is preparing for a long negotiation with an uncertain result once the new Parliament meets for the first time on April 12.