The main opposition parties, the Finns Party and the National Coalition Party, failed to warm to Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s assurances that the government was making progress implementing its four-year programme during a debate Monday afternoon on the new administration's four-year plan.
"Although it is not always reflected in the discussion in this chamber, implementation of the government programme is off to a good start. Next year’s budget will introduce a number of important reforms," Marin told MPs.
The PM was referring to measures such as higher pensions for low-income retirees and improved social benefits as well as increased spending on education and basic services.
The Marin government programme is the same as that of ex-premier Antti Rinne, however since it’s now the policy roadmap of a new administration it must be discussed in a plenary session of parliament. After Monday’s opening debate, MPS will put the new government to its first confidence vote.
Finns Party: We saw "theatrical government negotiations"
Finns Party MPs were unmoved by Marin’s statements, however. Chair of the nationalist party’s parliamentary group Ville Tavio said that Antti Rinne’s resignation should have triggered a new election.
"It would have been a service to democracy if Rinne’s resignation had led to new parliamentary elections," he declared.
Tavio accused the administration of engaging in government negotiation theatrics. He justified his view by observing that no real thought had been given to reorganising the composition of the coalition.
"The Left-Green alliance shut out the election’s second-largest party, the Finns Party, from the outset," he charged.
He also pointed out that former minister responsible for state ownership and steering, Sirpa Paatero, was given a new ministerial portfolio in Marin’s cabinet. Rinne, on the other hand, was appointed first deputy speaker of parliament after the shakeup.
The Finns Party currently lead voter opinion polls and have been building up support, while government parties have been leaching voter backing.
NCP: Marin given "a fair chance"
Petteri Orpo, chair of the second-largest opposition group, the National Coalition Party, said that he had given the Marin government a fair chance.
"We want to give Prime Minister Marin a fair chance, although based on the first days it looks like the missteps are continuing. The NCP will evaluate the government on the basis of its actions," Orpo declared.
Orpo went on to say that the government programme was built on sand.
"The biggest problem with the Marin government programme is that the economic foundation will not hold. According to the finance ministry, based on current economic development, public finances will be five billion in deficit by the end of the government’s term in office. Indebtedness has already begun to rise even though the economy is still growing,” he noted.
The NCP chair said it is for this reason that the party will vote against the government in Tuesday’s confidence vote.
Centre: More local collective agreements
Vice chair of the Centre Party parliamentary group Hanna-Leena Mattila said that the current government will continue the policies of the Juha Sipilä administration.
"Finland has not veered from the right to left compared to the last government, it has remained in the centre," she added.
Mattila pointed out that the new government, in which the Centre is a coalition partner, is an advocate for disadvantaged people and regions. The Centre had criticised former PM Antti Rinne for his frequent condemnation of the policies of the Sipilä government.
She called on the new administration to restore people’s faith in politics. She said that key to achieving that would be improving people’s everyday lives, primarily by boosting employment.
"Young people without jobs, the long-term unemployed and part-time workers must get work. This is why employing people and finding jobs must be made easier. The most important solution is increasing local collective bargaining agreements," she advised.
Centre chair and finance minister Katri Kulmuni has already stated that an important goal for the Centre during the government’s term is to promote local employment agreements.