by Kristofer Jäntti
The Finns will be choosing a new government in the upcoming parliamentary elections this Sunday. The most recent polls show that the Centre Party will become the largest part with 24% of the vote, securing itself the Prime Minister’s portfolio as dictated by Finnish political convention.
Behind the Centre Party, there is a tight race among the other ‘large parties’. The Finns Party has seen a recent surge in popularity bringing it neck-to-neck with the National Coalition Party, both polling a bit under 17%. The Social Democrats, however, seem to be haemorrhaging its working class votes and polling a meagre 15%.
The Centre Party has two options to build a coalition. The first would be a ‘bourgeois coalition’ formed with the National Coalition. The second option would be the so-called ‘Red-Soil coalition’ (punamulta). Either way the Finns Party have a good chance getting government responsibility, especially as smaller parties have proven difficult to cooperate with. The ‘six-pack coalition’ under Prime Minister Katainen in the beginning to 2011 dwindled to four parties under Prime Minister Stubb when the both the Left Alliance and the Green Party decided to continue in opposition.
Overall, according to Yle.fi, Finnish citizens are concerned about securing the resources needed to fund the Finnish welfare state. Currently Finnish municipalities are having great difficulties in providing basic health and welfare provisions that they are obliged to provide. The incumbent government attempted reform the current system with the so-called ‘SOTE-uudistus’ but failed forge an agreement acceptable for the parliament. Therefore, the next government will have to wrangle this contentious topic.
Closely linked to this, is the theme of getting the Finnish economy on track to growth. the Finnish economy has contracted in the last three years, while government debt has skyrocketed to close to 60% of GDP and unemployment stands at 9,2%. Most of the large parties are worried about the pace at which government debt is accumulating as well as the relative competitiveness of Finnish companies.
Moreover, given the recent strained relationship between Russia and the West, security has risen as a key topic. Most of party leaders support increasing spending in security, however, there is a clear division between the major parties when it comes to Finland’s possible NATO membership. The National Coalition is more inclined towards membership, while the Centre Party and Social Democrats tend to be against membership. Nonetheless, after discussions with President Niinistö, Finnish party leaders have refrained from proposing NATO membership in their election campaigns – though the option is still kept open.
The next government will be faced with a number of thankless tasks – trying to boost employment while balancing the books, as well as push through health and welfare reforms.