Six-party government in the making
National Coalition Party chairman, outgoing Minister of Finance Jyrki Katainen announced on Wednesday that his party and five others, the Social Democratic Party, the Swedish People’s Party, and the Christian Democratic Party, as well as the Green League and the Left Alliance would begin talks on forming a new government for Finland.
“Broader shoulders are useful to get Finland to rise up and become one of the strongest economies in the world”, Katainen said as he made his announcement.
The proposed six-party government would have the backing of 126 of Finland’s 200 Members of Parliament.
“This base would have a sufficient majority in Parliament. It is quite a broad base, and it is one that everyone can consider his or her own.”
The actual government formation talks begin on Friday at Helsinki’s House of the Estates.
Katainen said that there were no “insurmountable obstacles” to the Greens’ participation in government formation talks.
A condition for the participation of the Greens in the talks was that the future government should raise the level of basic security, or labour market support, as well as the lowest parental leave payments. The Left Alliance also saw this as a threshold issue.
Much of the focus in the upcoming talks is expected to be on what benefits should be raised and by how much, and if the increase in labour market support should automatically raise income-linked unemployment benefits.
Green League chairwoman Anni Sinnemäki expects the negotiations to prove difficult. However, she says that the party is eager to enter the talks, and is confident that it can carry out its goals.
She was also pleased that the Left Alliance is joining the talks, nothing that the two parties share many ideas: differences can be found mainly in EU policy.
“If a government is formed with this group, it will be a government that emphasises European cooperation.”
One of the difficult issues facing the potential coalition will be the negative stand taken by the Left Alliance on the bailout loans for Portugal and the EU’s emergency funding mechanisms.
Katainen says that the matter will be resolved in government formation talks. “I don’t know the final result yet.”
Left Alliance chairman Paavo Arhinmäki said that his party’s stand on the Portugal guarantees will mean that the party will vote against the measure when it comes before Parliament – not abstaining in the vote, for instance.
Previously, the True Finns opted to stay in opposition specifically over the issue of EU subsidies.
Katainen emphasised that no party joining the government will be given “permanent free hands” to oppose the policies of the rest of the government.
The emphasis was on the word “permanent”, and the expression was repeated later in the speech as well.
This suggests that one-off deviations from the stand of the rest of the government might be possible if they are limited to the Portugal issue. Katainen said that similar boundaries were sought in talks with the True Finns, but that the party’s leader Timo Soini was not able to commit to such a restriction.
Arhinmäki said on Wednesday that the Left Alliance is ready to hold discussions on the temporary European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and the permanent European Stability Mechanism (ESM).
The Left Alliance leader would not admit to feeling nervous about joining a government led by the conservative National Coalition Party. The last time that the Left Alliance was in government, it had to agree to sharp spending cuts.
“We need to learn from those mistakes. That is why the threshold issues have been written down.”
In addition to basic security, key issues for the Left Alliance include the narrowing of income differences through taxation, and the securing of public services.
Katainen said that the most important goals of the new government was the creation of economic growth and jobs, the prevention of the marginalisation of young people, and the reduction of poverty, as well as fixing the public economy.
Previously in HS International Edition:
True Finns not joining next government (12.5.2011)
Left Alliance leader Arhinmäki: room for negotiation on EU emergency mechanisms (18.5.2011)
SDP wants Left Alliance in government (17.5.2011)