As cabinet formation negotiations led by PM-designate Petteri Orpo (NCP) continue for a fourth week, there are growing signs of impatience from the second-largest party in the talks, the Finns Party (Finns). Its leader, Riikka Purra, said on Wednesday that Thursday night could be a turning point in the talks.
Orpo and Purra have agreed that agreement on the most contentious issues of immigration and climate measures must be reached by Friday if the talks are to continue with the current four parties. The two smaller parties in the envisaged right-leaning coalition are the Swedish People's Party (SPP) and the Christian Democrats.
The stances of the Finns Party and SPP on these key issues are in many respects diametrically opposed, but without all four parties Orpo cannot put together a right-leaning coalition with a solid majority in the 200-seat Parliament.
If the FP drops out of the talks, he would in effect be obliged to open new talks including the Social Democrats. Outgoing PM Sanna Marin's party came in a close third in last month's election behind the NCP and Finns Party.
For the rest of this week, negotiators from the four parties are only focussing on immigration and climate policy. This is at the request of the Finns Party, Orpo said on Tuesday.
Purra: "No point in wasting people's time"
Other difficult issues are also yet to be resolved, including cost-cutting in social and healthcare services and major economic restructuring measures aimed at reining in state spending.
Orpo aims to have the government programme ready before the Midsummer holiday, which is a month away.
"There is no point in wasting people's time if there really aren't any conditions for a joint government programme," Purra said.
According to Purra, if an agreement is reached on immigration and climate issues, it will be much easier to agree on other issues after that.
On Tuesday, she reiterated said that the FP will not join any government that does not significantly tighten immigration policy. Orpo and the SPP leader, outgoing Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson, pointed out again on Wednesday that Finland faces a chronic labour shortage and needs a reasonable policy on work-based immigration.
"We have a big job, a lot to negotiate, difficult things. It's good to have some targets. I think the negotiations are now at the stage where we will have long days and even negotiate late," Orpo said.
If no agreement is reached on the main guidelines of the most controversial issues by Friday, the leaders of the four parties will have to decide whether it is still possible for their parties to form a government, or whether the differences of opinion are so great that no deal can be reached.