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Sipilä: Rising extremism partially to blame for Centre Party defeat

Outgoing Prime Minister Juha Sipilä tried to make sense of his party's poor election showing to the party council.

Centre Party chair Juha Sipilä smiles in Riihimäki on 27 April Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

The party council of the outgoing Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's Centre Party met in southern Finland on Saturday to evaluate its crushing defeat at the polls on 14 April. The once-dominant political party in Finland lost over one-third of its seats in the general election.

Sipilä concluded that one of the reasons for his party's downfall was increasingly extremist pre-election views.

"Our middle-of-the-road stance always fell between the cracks. For example, we had a rational green solution for how to solve the greatest problem [climate change] confronting mankind. The Centre Party led a drive to draft a common policy along with eight other parties," he said.

"But there were people who thought the entire discussion was nonsense. Their votes went to the Finns Party. Others were of the opinion that we should immediately put an end to driving cars, eating meat and warming our saunas. This group's votes went to the Greens," Sipilä continued.

Even the party's claim-to-fame regional politics, whereby money is invested in Finland's outlying areas in order to ensure work opportunities and services, did not save the Centre Party in the election.

"We invested nearly one billion euros in the Kainuu region in the last term and were successful in halving the unemployment rate there – with the final result that we lost both of our hard-working Kainuu MPs," Sipilä said, revealing a man who is still coming to terms with his party's fall from grace.

"Voters wish to see us in opposition"

Election results indicate that voters want to see the Centre Party in the opposition, Sipilä said to the party elite.

"The responsibility for forming the government now falls to the winners of the election. Their mandate may be weaker than any time in history, but there is only one largest party in parliament," he continued.

Sipilä said that government coalition talks should first explore potential coalitions that exclude the Centre Party, adding that the threshold for his party joining the next government is high.

"The Centre Party will only join a government that is functioning on the basis of a government programme that determinedly continues efforts to raise the employment rate to 75 percent. It will not happen on its own, as many might lead us to believe," he said.