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May Day speeches foreshadow rocky political road ahead

A day before the launch of negotiations on forming the next government, party representatives staked out policy positions for the next four years in May 1st speeches.

Yhdistelmäkuvassa Sanna Marin ja Jussi Halla-aho.
Outgoing SDP chair Sanna Marin and former Finns Party leader Jussi Halla-aho (right) delivered May Day speeches in Helsinki. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle ja Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva
Yle News

Political leaders from across the spectrum addressed May Day events on Monday, a day before prime minister-apparent Petteri Orpo's election-winning National Coalition Party (NCP) was due to launch talks on forming the next government.

Neither Orpo nor Riikka Purra, chair of the second-place Finns Party (FP), made public appearances on 1 May. However, former FP chair Jussi Halla-aho spoke at Snellman Square, in front of the Bank of Finland building. Speaking on Finnish Labour Day, he accused the left of betraying wage-earners.

"The traditional labour movement, both in politics and on the trade-union side, has failed the working population. They look after their own interests, not those of working people," Halla-aho charged.

Halla-aho said that all unnecessary expenditures must be cut from public finances during the next four-year legislative period.

"People have understanding for even painful spending cuts, if they don't have to watch public funds being carelessly shovelled at the same time into various black holes that have nothing to do with the basic tasks of society," he said.

Halla-aho also called for tighter immigration laws while adding that the party is ready to compromise on immigration policy "up to a certain point".

That may be a threshold question for another potential government partner, the smaller Swedish People's Party (SPP), who are to begin cabinet formation negotiations with the NCP, FP and Christian Democrats on Tuesday.

With the Centre vowing to remain in opposition and other parties distancing themselves from the nationalist FP, the two largest parties need the SPP's participation to form a solid majority coalition. That is far from certain, though, due to deep fundamental differences between FP and SPP policy goals.

Henriksson: SPP will stick to its values

SPP chair Anna-Maja Henriksson issued a video statement on Sunday, noting that her party will play a central role in the formation of the next government but that it does not intend to budge from its core values.

"We will always stick to human rights, the status of the Swedish language and people's right to be themselves," she said.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) delivered her last May Day speech as party leader at Helsinki's Citizens' Square, touching on familiar themes such as democracy, solidarity and equality.

She warned that spending cuts planned by Orpo's NCP could weaken basic rights.

Marin said that "Finland's problems will not be solved by cuts or austerity or turning inwards on immigration policy, while stressing that "support for Ukraine must continue" in all forms.

Two other party leaders from the outgoing government also gave speeches implying that their parties are likely to remain in opposition. Left Alliance leader Li Andersson spoke in her native Turku while Greens chair Maria Ohisalo spoke via a video, just over a month before stepping down as party leader.

Centre chair Annika Saarikko also spoke in a pre-recorded video, defending her party's decision to join the opposition.

Saarikko pointed out that the Centre has been in government for 16 of the last 20 years. She predicted that the next government will be strongly right-wing and expressed concern about cuts to social and health services and education.

"It's not wise to start the cuts with social and health care," said Saarikko.

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