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Finland's new government: SDP, Centre dominate ministerial portfolios

The SDP will dominate the ministerial top jobs in Finland's new 19-member, five-party coalition government.

Image: Pekka Tynell / Yle

From a total of 19 ministerial portfolios in the new Finnish cabinet, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) will hold seven and the Centre will occupy five. The Greens will hold three while the Left Alliance and Swedish People's Party (SPP) will have two each. The names of the ministers are to be announced later.

The incoming government will put an end to eight years of austerity, adding 1.2 billion euros to government expenditure. Spending will be offset by higher tobacco, alcohol and fuel taxes.

The Social Democrats, with their razor-thin victory in April’s general election, had their first pick of ministerial portfolios, naturally taking over the premiership and gaining seven portfolios, including those for European Affairs, Local Government and state ownership steering, Development and Foreign Trade, Family Affairs and Social Services, Transport as well as Labour.

The Centre Party, which is stepping down as the prime minister’s party following a crushing defeat in the election, will take over five portfolios: Finance, Economy, Defense, Agriculture and a new combined Science and Culture portfolio, under the Education Ministry.

Juha Sipilä, premier of the outgoing centre-right government, said he’d be following the new government's employment targets from the back benches. He explained later that he will not be a minister before leaving his post as party chair in September.

SPP chair Anna-Maja Henriksson said she didn’t see any obstacles to Finland reaching its goal of 75-percent employment as it has been achievable in the other Nordic countries.

Finland’s next foreign minister will be from the Greens. The party, which saw it's best ever EU election result in last month's Europarliament elections, will also run the Environment and Interior ministries.

Green Party chair Pekka Haavisto called the environmental agenda the "most ambitious climate plan globally," aiming for carbon neutrality by 2035, though the government did not provide concrete plans at its press conference at Helsinki's central library Oodi on Monday. Ahead of government formation talks, Rinne said all parties forming the new government must commit to keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, in line with recommendations from the UN climate group IPCC.

The Left Alliance will oversee the ministries of Education and Social Affairs and Health, which could signal a turnaround in recent efforts to open the Finnish healthcare sector to private providers. Li Andersson, Left Alliance chair, said Finland would roll back a contentious 'activation model' and make upper secondary school materials free for students. The new administration wants to extend compulsory education to include upper secondary and vocational schooling.

The Swedish People’s Party will hold on to the Justice Ministry while also picking up the equality minister's post.

Referring to the five-group coalition and her childhood memories of libraries, Henriksson quipped, “everything usually ends well for the Famous Five, and that’s what happened here,” she said referring to children’s adventure novel series from the 1940s and '50s.

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