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APN this week: How's Antti Rinne's government doing?

Slashing red tape on work-based residence permits would be at least one easy win, says an Yle political journalist.

Antti Rinne
Antti Rinne Image: Antti Haanpää / Yle

The administration led by former union boss Antti Rinne has completed 150-odd days in government and has had little time to begin making good on the pledges in its government programme.

Rinne leads a disparate coalition spanning the political spectrum, and some tensions have been on show in recent weeks. Is it possible to balance the Centre Party’s rural base with the Greens’ urban, environmentalist focus? Can the Left Alliance and the economically liberal Swedish People’s Party agree on economic policy?

The setup is certainly different to the unified approach of the Sipilä government, and that shows in some of the compromises made in Rinne’s first months in office, even as the governing parties promise big moves on several fronts.

Voters may still be waiting to see how the new administration fulfills those promises given that it’s still early days, says Yle political journalist Helmiina Suhonen. At the same time, she says that the Rinne government’s climate actions don’t match the lofty goal of carbon neutrality by 2035.

"Even in 150 days there should be more to give than assurances of making a roadmap for your goals. People may not be pleased because the goals are so grandiose," Suhonen says.

Easing work-based immigration

The government has also pledged to raise the employment rate to 75 percent by 2023, but analysts are sceptical about whether that can be achieved without more significant policy initiatives.

"What we see so far is really not in line with the target of creating 60,000 jobs, that’s hard for regular citizens to believe," she added.

The government has been under pressure to address lengthy waits in visa processing for highly-skilled foreign workers.

In response the government has pledged to transfer the administration of work-based immigration to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, splitting it off from the Finnish Immigration Service and thereby potentially speeding up approvals.

According to Suhonen, this is an area that could provide the administration with "an easy win".

"It is one of the easiest things to do at this point and it is something concrete they can attempt. Other things like attracting people to come to Finland are more complex and involve many different players," she adds.

Good reviews on govt cooperation

Even so, the list of reforms Rinne administration intends to undertake in this area is long and ambitious.

Suhonen says the government may be hampered by the fact that the five-party coalition does not always appear to be on the same page on some issues. The Greens and the Centre Party are especially antagonistic, having clashed over environmental issues as well as internal security.

In spite of their differences, Suhonen says the cooperation has gone "surprisingly well" and she notes that there may be no other option than for them to "just get along".

"Smaller parties like the Greens or Left Alliance have no other choice if they want to be in government. The Centre may have some options, though," she continues.

Rinne not afraid of conflict

Prime Minister Antti Rinne took over the reins of government on the cusp of Finland’s presidency of the Council of the European Union. Suhonen offers a mixed review of his tenure since then, noting that Rinne has shown himself to be adept at managing conflict within a group, she adds.

"He is used to it and he’s not afraid of conflict. He is using this "iltakoulu" approach, something that [Juha] Sipilä didn’t really do during his term,” she says, referring to the tradition of informal after-hours discussion groups advocated by President Sauli Niinistö in 2011 that dates back to the 1930s.

Otherwise, Suhonen identifies a tendency to mixed messaging as one of Rinne’s weaknesses.

"He has lots of ideas and may not always share them with his teammates. It is not always clear what the message is and that may be a handicap."

This week the All Points North podcast reviews the government's first 150-odd days in office. Would you give it a passing grade or not? What has it got right and where has it missed the mark? We'll discuss these and other questions with Helmiina Suhonen and Robert Sundman, presenters of the Yle political podcast Yes, no, abstain, absent (Jaa, ei, tyhjiä, poissa) or JETP. You can send comments or questions via WhatsApp on +358 44 421 0909, on our Facebook or Twitter accounts, or to yle.news@yle.fi.

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