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Swedish People's Party government hopes dashed in political acrobatics

"A Finnish version of House of Cards." That's how Swedish People's Party Chair Anna-Maja Henriksson characterised the past few days of government turmoil. Henriksson's comments came after the sudden splintering of the nationalist Finns Party which helped Prime Minister Juha Sipilä to avert a collapse of his three party coalition.

Anna-Maja Henriksson and Stefan Wallin.
Opposition Swedish People's Party chair Anna-Maja Henriksson and MP Stefan Wallin. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

As Sipilä's tripartite government appeared to be imploding just a day ago, there were murmurs of Henriksson's SPP joining forces with the Christian Democrats party to fill the power vacuum which many thought would be left after the Finns Party were kicked to the curb. But it didn't happen like that.

"We've seen the former [Finns Party] leader Timo Soini give up his own party, something he said was impossible only ten days ago; a betrayal," Henriksson said.

"We've seen that one populist party can become two populist parties," she said.

Henriksson said that she is very pleased that PM Sipilä and Finance Minister Petteri Orpo chose to put their foot down against the Finns Party's new leadership.

"I listened very carefully to their speeches about how important values are and that Finland has a clear policy on EU politics. I hope that the things they said yesterday will also apply to the current government in the future," Henriksson said.

Splinter plan might have been in the cards

However, Henriksson said that she is a little surprised that Soini left the Finns Party for the splinter group, saying that she gets the impression that such a plan might have already been in place earlier.

"In any case, I don't think there will be any major changes in issues or values for the New Alternative [group]," Henriksson said, saying that the former Finns Party's Sampo Terho - who left for the new party, and Halla-aho were very similar.

The Swedish People's Party appear to have given up on the idea of participating in the government, and will more than likely remain in opposition.

When asked whether the party would consider joining a government with the newly-formed New Alternative parliamentary group, SPP MP Stefan Wallin said it was hypothetical.

The split in the populist party was indirectly caused by the election of the new Finns Party leader, hardline anti-immigration nationalist Jussi Halla-aho. On Sunday Sipilä said that his Centre Party and the National Coalition Party could no longer work together with the Finns Party under Halla-aho's rule.

That prompted the creation of a parliamentary group made up of some 20-odd Finns Party MP exiles, who are calling themselves the New Alternative.

That major - and, in Finnish politics, unusually swift - transformation enabled Sipilä to keep his government intact, with all ministers remaining in place.

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