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Finnish FM: "The old parties have collapsed" in French election

Finland's government was split on the French election, with leaders of two of the three parties in power pleased about the success of insurgent liberal Emmanuel Macron, while the populist Foreign Minister preferred to emphasise the collapse in support for what he called 'the old parties'.

Kuvassa vasemmalta pääministeri Juha Sipilä, ulkoministeri Timo Soini ja valtiovarainministeri Petter Orpo.
Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, Foreign Minister Timo Soini and Finance minister Petteri Orpo Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

The French presidential election shook Europe on Sunday with a nailbiting four-way split of the vote in the first round, with centrist newcomer Emmanuel Macron securing first place.

He'll now enter a run-off with the far-right Front Nationale candidate Marine Le pen—a showdown framed by much of the European media as a contest between populist and liberal Europe.

Reaction in Finland has largely followed that pattern, with the centrist parties lauding Macron's victory while the Finns Party leader Timo Soini—who is also Finland's Foreign Minister—dwelling on the collapse in support for France's traditional parties.

"I'm satisfied that a reform-minded, pro-Europe candidate made it through the first round," said Prime Minister Juha Sipilä of the Centre Party. "There's now a clear configuration in the second round: between a reforming, pro-Europe candidate and one demanding a departure from Europe."

United front?

Sipilä's reaction followed a pattern in Europe and in France, with candidates encouraging their supporters to vote for Macron in order to defeat a far-right candidate in Le Pen who wants to withdraw from the EU and from Nato, clamp down on a perceived law and order problem and implement anti-immigration policies. 

Sipilä's government partner Soini, meanwhile, took a different tack. Following similar populist successes in the USA and Britain Soini had refused to comment, but this time he took the opportunity to remark on the changes heralded by the first round result.

Scandal-hit centre-right UMP candidate Francois Fillon didn't make it to the second round, and the socialist party's Benoit Hamon struggled to just over six percent of the vote—a stunning reversal for the party that won the last presidential election through Francois Hollande. 

New order

Speaking at the government's mid-term review, in which the three parties take stock of their performance so far and agree changes to the plans for the second half of this parliamentary term, Soini lauded the political earthquake in France.

"The old parties have collapsed, whoever wins [in the second round]," said Soini. "Macron doesn't have a single MP in parliament, Le Pen has just two."

Finance Minister Petteri Orpo, who heads up the centre-right National Coalition, stuck to the centrist script.

"I'm very satisfied that their is a supporter of openness, a defender of European ideals," said Orpo. "I hope that the French people make good decisions, because they are actually [also] voting on the future of Europe."

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