Finnish Social Democrats to keep nationalists out

A broad coalition could be ineffective, analysts say

Photo: EPA Social Democratic Party leader Antti Rinne (C) celebrates the victory, Helsinki, 14 April.

Despite the narrow win in Finland's parliamentary elections, Antti Rinne, the leader of opposition Social Democrats said on Monday he has started preparations for the new government, which many analysts believe would be ineffective.

The Social Democrats won 40 seats in Sunday's elections, gaining six seats in the 200-seat legislature and giving Rinne the first shot at forming a new government. The big question Monday was what role the far-right anti-immigration Finns Party, which more than doubled its seats in parliament under the leadership of hardline nationalist Jussi Halla-aho, would play.

The Social Democrats came in as Finland's biggest party with 17.7% of the votes, just ahead of the Finns Party on 17.5%. Halla-aho told Finnish media on Monday he did not want to repeat the mistakes his party made in 2015 when it entered government and was forced to compromise on immigration and EU bailouts."I don't see it as possible that the Finns Party would take part in a government which doesn't clearly commit to reducing humanitarian migration," he added.

On the campaign trail, Halla-aho told supporters he wanted to see the refugee intake reduced to "almost zero". This would appear to clash directly with the Social Democratic Party's manifesto pledge to make it easier for refugees in Finland to be joined by family members from their home countries.

Social Democrat leader Antti Rinne himself told reporters early Monday that cooperation with the Finns Party "looks unlikely". Political analyst Sini Korpinen told AFP that, in a bid to keep the nationalists in opposition, a coalition between the leftist Social Democrats and the centre-right National Coalition appeared almost a certainty. He predicted the Social Democrats would likely try to build a coalition with the National Coalition, the Greens, the far-left Left Alliance, and centrist Swedish People's Party.

"But the broad coalition Rinne will need to keep the Finns Party out will be difficult to manage and ineffective," Korpinen said. Rinne has been a staunch opponent of the National Coalition's austerity policies over the past four years. Meanwhile Petteri Orpo, leader of the conservative National Coalition Party and co-architect of the government's savings programme, has repeatedly denounced the Social Democratic Party's anti-austerity plans as "irresponsible". However, there are signs the two parties may be able to reach some agreement to restrict further belt-tightening, as Orpo has insisted that the economy is now strong enough to allow for some more generous public spending.

Goran Djupsund, political science professor at Abo Akademi University, said the outcome from the Finlands vote showed how rising populism across Europe was fragmenting and weakening political systems. "A splintered political landscape makes it harder to build a government and nations become harder to lead," Djupsund said.

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