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Efforts to form new Finnish government "could be over soon"

A leading political analyst predicts that a five-party cabinet will be put together quickly.

Eduskuntatutkimuksen keskuksen puheenjohtaja Markku Jokisipilä.
Professor Markku Jokisipilä, director of the University of Turku's Centre for Parliamentary Studies Image: Carolus Manninen / Yle

Professor Markku Jokisipilä, director of the University of Turku's Centre for Parliamentary Studies, says that Finnish government formation talks may end soon.

"I have a feeling that this may be wrapped up quite rapidly. It seems that there is political will among the groups taking part in the government discussions," he told Yle on Friday.

Negotiations aimed at putting together a cabinet to govern Finland for the next four years began on Wednesday at Helsinki's historic House of the Estates.

Social Democratic Party (SDP) chair Antti Rinne, whose party won last month's parliamentary election by a razor-thin margin, choose the Centre Party of outgoing premier Juha Sipilä as his main partner in a planned five-party centre-left coalition. He also held extensive talks with the leader of the conservative, pro-business National Coalition Party (NCP), which is the Centre's main partner in the outgoing government.

The three smaller parties taking part are the Greens, the Left Alliance and the Swedish People's Party. On Thursday evening, after the first full day of talks, Rinne said all was going according to plan.

Jokisipilä argues those participating in the talks are motivated to succeed because there are really no other alternative government parties.

"If one of the [parties] marches out or is kicked out, then in practical terms the only alternative would be the NCP. And if the NCP joins the negotiations, it would mean that the Left Alliance would have to leave," says the pundit, suggesting that the gaps between the two parties' stands on economic and other issues are too wide to be bridged within one cabinet.

"Finns Party declared unfit for government"

If that happens, the situation would become very difficult, Jokisipilä says.

"I'd say there is probably no other alternative basis for a government. All the parties at the House of Estates certainly realise that. After all, the Finns Party has in practice been declared unfit for government by the other parties," Jokisipilä says.

The nationalist party was in effect booted from the last government in 2017 when it elected a new chair, Jussi Halla-aho, an anti-immigration hardliner who had been convicted of hate speech. They were replaced in the cabinet by a more moderate faction that split off from the Finns Party - and which failed to win a single seat in the new parliament.

Meanwhile Halla-aho's Finns Party is now one seat short of being the largest bloc in the legislature, and topped two public opinion polls issued this week. Also this week they were moved – symbolically and against their will – to sit on the far right side of the parliamentary hall.

Finland takes over the rotating EU presidency on July 1, and much of the country begins summer holidays on or around Midsummer's Eve (June 21), so Rinne is likely aiming to have a new cabinet sworn in by then.

Four years ago, Sipilä's three-party government took office on 29 May after April elections. On 8 March this year Sipilä tendered the government's resignation after the collapse of its flagship legislation, a sweeping reform of the social and healthcare system and the nation's regional administration structure. Since then, his cabinet has carried on in a caretaker capacity.

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