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All Points North #50: Finland veers left and right - and seeks consensus after a divisive election

APN reviews a nail-biting parliamentary election and speculates about an SDP-led coalition as populism becomes the "new normal".

Photo of Greens chair Pekka Haavisto,  outgoing prime minister Juha Sipilä of the Centre Party, NCP chair Petteri Orpo, SDP chair Antti Rinne on 14 April, 2019.

Populism has come to Finland to stay and the days of big-three political parties shaping the government or the opposition are over, say analysts Sini Korpinen and Sam Kingsley as All Points North wraps up its special parliamentary election series.

The populist Finns Party led by immigration hardliner Jussi Halla-aho, swept into the top three to claim 39 seats and push Finnish politics hard right, with a voter mandate that Korpinen and Kingsley say other politicians and the general public should not ignore. That groundswell of support is what will complicate the task of coalition talks for Antti Rinne, whose Social Democratic party claimed 40 seats and the commission to form a new government from the fragmented result.

According to the experts, although Petteri Orpo's National Coalition Party and Juha Sipilä's Centre Party -- which was soundly trounced in the poll -- are the only groups with any appetite for working with the Finns Party, sending them into opposition could ultimately lead more voters to rally to their side in subsequent elections.

Overall, opposition parties the Greens and the Left Alliance look to be solid potential partners for the SDP, but their MPs may not be enough for a parliamentary majority. That means Rinne will likely have to invite other parties to join his administration, taking the new government in the direction of an unwieldy "rainbow coalition".

Whatever happens, Finland can look forward to more thrills as coalition formation talks progress and a new government takes office just as Finland assumes the rotating EU presidency from 1 July.

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The All Points North podcast is a weekly look at what's going on in Finland. Subscribe via iTunes (siirryt toiseen palveluun) (and leave a review!), listen on Spotify (siirryt toiseen palveluun)and Yle Areena or find it on your favourite podcatching app or via our RSS feed (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

Our landmark 50th podcast was presented by Denise Wall and Mark B. Odom, with additional reporting by Pamela Kaskinen and Tom Bateman. The producer was Pamela Kaskinen and the sound engineers were Pasi Ilkka and Jami Auvinen.