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Finnish PM: October regional elections on social, health care reforms postponed

PM Juha Sipilä said he still believes enough MPs in his administration still support plans to carry out major social and health care reforms.

Pääministeri Juha Sipilä haastattelutunnilla.
Finland's Prime Minister and Centre Party chair Juha Sipilä at the Prime Minister's question hour programme on Sunday afternoon. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

Finland's Prime Minister and Centre Party chair Juha Sipilä said that Finland will not carry out regional elections in October, but when they might be held remains unclear. He said the elections could take place after government finishes hammering out details to social service and health care reforms, colloquially referred to as "sote."

The announcement confirms a delay of unknown duration of plans to hold elections to install a new network of larger regional bodies to take over administration of reformed social and health services.

"The elections will be postponed a little," Sipilä said, during the Prime Minister's question hour programme, broadcast live on Yle radio on Sunday afternoon.

The PM said, however all of the parliamentary groups in his government remain committed to carrying out reforms to the country's social welfare and health care systems.

According to current plans, the reforms would go into effect at the beginning of 2020, and Sipilä said Sunday he thinks that timetable can still be kept.

Doubts were cast in past days

On Saturday Sipilä's government colleague, Finance Minister Petteri Orpo projected his opinion that time constraints will likely prevent government's plan to arrange the regional elections on the reforms in October.

On Friday Orpo's National Coalition Party colleague, MP Susanna Koski, added her name to a growing list of NCP lawmakers who say they plan to vote against the reforms.

Support within parliament for the reforms within government is increasingly razor-thin. In recent weeks other coalition government MPs announced they do not plan to support the reforms, including NCP MP Elina Lepomäki and newly-departed NCP member Hjallis Harkimo.

On Friday Justice Minister Antti Häkkinen warned that parliament’s slow pace dealing with the social and health care reform laws could mean that proposed regional elections are at risk of being postponed.

The increase in government members abandoning support for the controversial reform plans has led to the increasing possibility that the legislation may not have enough votes to survive a parliamentary vote.

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