Soini softens his stance on Portugal, but True Finns remain adamant
True Finns leader Timo Soini offered a Labour Day present to Portugal on Saturday when easing his stand on support for the indebted country.
On the Ykkösaamu current affairs television programme on the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) on Saturday, Timo Soini was asked whether the True Finns could under some conditions approve of supporting Portugal through the eurozone’s temporary bailout fund.
According to Soini, the matter is open for negotiation.
”Let us negotiate and see what the outcome is. The entire party - not Timo Soini alone - is to take a stand on the question. At present, Finland needs a majority government and certain changes to the situation prevailing before the elections. That situation as such will not do”, Soini replied.
Soini’s present stand shows quite an abrupt change of policy. Before last month’s general elections Soini declared declared himself unequivocally opposed to helping indebted EU member countries.
At that time Soini noted repeatedly that the True Finns would vote against the proposed bailout packages.
On the Ykkösaamu Soini said that he was not afraid of being labelled a turncoat.
”I am not afraid of anything. A total of about 560,000 Finns voted for the True Finns. While involved in politics, I have never been afraid of anything”, Soini noted.
He may yet find this a premature statement, as on Monday morning the True Finns indicated that party members continue to take a very dim view indeed of the bailout plans for Portugal. ”We cannot support the Portugal package with a clear conscience, or the creation of a permanent rescue funding mechanism (ESM). We also cannot approve of the increasing of Finland's financial obligations under the temporary financial stability facility (EFSF)", was the party's resonse to a question from Jyrki Katainen, the National Coalition Party leader, who is heading the efforts to put together a new government for Finland after last month's elections.
All the parties with a leaning towards joining the next government have left their answers with Katainen in the course of Monday morning.
Despite the fairly obvious "No" tones contained in the message, the True Finns' Parliamentary group have said that they are still willing to take part in talks over an NCP-led coalition based on the results of the election, in which the True Finns enjoyed massive, unprecedented gains and picked up 19% of the vote.
The Portugal issue is one of the most urgent questions in the preliminary inquiries into forming a new government, which started on Wednesday of last week, as Finland is to make a decision on its stand by May 25th at the latest.
Katainen wanted to know if the parties are willing to approve the fulfilment of “commitments that Finland has already made”.
He has also sought answers to questions on how the parties feel about the provisional and permanent financing mechanisms of indebted countries.
In their May Day speeches, representatives of Finnish political parties also evaluated the election outcome and the upcoming government formation negotiations.
For example leader of the Left Alliance, Paavo Arhinmäki bluntly accused the True Finns of a reversal of policy.
He criticised that the party’s absolute ”No” to the Portugal bailout package had in two weeks become a negotiable issue.
Few commentators had imagined that the True Finns - or any other party, for that matter - would have been able to hold on to all its election mainifesto pledges in the hurly-burly of forming a coherent government coalition, but the True Finns were probably the party most likely to have to make large-scale compromises if they wished to move from being a party of protest to a responsible partner in government, possibly alongside the SDP and the National Coalition Party.
SDP MP and former Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja said that the election outcome shows primarily that most Finns are concerned about the growing inequality in the country.
According to Tuomioja’s estimate, the results also reflect criticism towards the Portugal bailout as well as an increase in intolerance, but their significance was not decisive.
Previously in HS International Edition:
First steps in government formation: Katainen asks parties questions about economy (28.4.2011)
Portugal bailout package adds to Finnish election confusion (8.4.2011)