As Finland returns to normal following a divisive general election result, parliamentary groups in the new session named Social Democratic Party chair Antti Rinne as leader of government formation talks. Rinne was widely expected to assume the role, given his party’s razor-thin victory in the recently-concluded election.
Speaking during a press conference on Friday, Rinne said that the timetable for the formation of a new government will run a few days later than originally anticipated.
The party leader distributed a list of questions covering 11 key areas to all parliamentary groups in his bid to zoom in on the optimal candidates to invite to talks on establishing a coalition government. Party groups must turn in their responses by mid-day on Tuesday, 30 April.
Follow-up discussions will then take place from 3-6 May. In such a case, formal government formation talks will not begin before Wednesday, 8 May.
Rinne told journalists that he would need to at least have an idea of other parties’ economic policy positions before embarking on the first round of talks. He noted that the original goal was to be able to announce invitees to coalition negotiations after May Day on Friday, 3 May. However now, his target is to begin those discussions on Monday, 6 May.
Basic income or means-tested benefits?
Rinne’s laundry list of key issues reflects the SDP’s focus on areas such as equality, education and the economy. These themes were central to the party’s election campaign and formed the backbone of election promises to remedy massive cuts in education spending and to reduce inequality.
Rinne’s questions seek to determine whether or not other political parties want to improve services and social benefits. They also aim to analyse whether or not other parties would fund spending on education and benefits by possible tax hikes or by curbing spending in other areas.
Queries relating to benefits reform are meant to gauge other parties’ support for means-tested benefits, where applicants must prove their eligibility for support. This point will require the Greens and the Left Alliance to consider their support for a universal basic income as an alternative to the current system of benefits.
Disclosing possible red lines
With respect to employment and the labour market, Rinne will be looking to see if other groups want to support cooperation with employee and employer organisations. He will want to understand if they want to maintain the universally binding nature of collective bargaining agreements. Analysts are eagerly anticipating the views of the centre-right National Coalition Party and the Centre Party on this question.
Other key areas the survey addresses include testing parties' commitment to mitigating climate change, strengthening Finland’s policy and its status in the global arena, maintaining internal security while safeguarding human rights in Finland.
Rinne’s questions also ask for proposals to ensure economic growth in the face of climate change while considering mega trends such as urbanisation. The questionnaire also tackled boosting the employment rate above 75 percent, developing expertise, education and innovation while aiming to gauge positions on social and health care reform.
Rinne has also asked parliamentary groups to disclose possible obstacles they may have to joining a government led by the SDP.