Today was the first day of the new parliament, and there was some ceremonial housekeeping to take care of for MPs.
As per tradition, the leader of the largest party Antti Rinne (SDP) was elected to the role of Speaker of Parliament. If, as expected, he becomes Prime Minister then that role will be re-cast.
Rinne’s two deputy speakers, for now, are his immediate predecessor in the job Paula Risikko (NCP) are Juha Eerola (Finns).
Tradition dictates that the second biggest party in parliament usually fills the position of speaker.
What happens next for the government?
For now, all the members of the old government continue in the interim.
That’s why you’ll see Juha Sipilä (Centre) sending a message of condolence as head of government to the government of Sri Lanka for example; or why Timo Soini (Blue) hosts visiting foreign ministers and will chair the Arctic Council summit in Rovaniemi early next month.
Talks to form a new coalition government start in earnest on Friday, when the Social Democrats’ Parliamentary Group leader asks all the other parties to pick a delegate for the talks, after they’ve filled out a detailed policy questionnaire.
The questionnaire helps the Social Democrats to figure out which of the other parties have similar visions for the next four years of government, and which parties he might be able to work with.
During the talks, the government programme, number of ministers, division of responsibilities and allocation of portfolios will be hammered out.
Then comes more ceremonial bureaucracy:
On the basis of these negotiations, President Niinistö will inform parliament who the nominee for Prime Minister is. It’s expected to be Antti Rinne.
Then parliament votes on that nomination, and he’s confirmed as prime minister if he gets more than 50% of the votes.
The President appoints ministers, including the prime minister, at a special session which the incoming and outgoing government all attend.
Immediately afterwards, the new government will hold its first plenary session where ministers take their oath of office.
The government tells parliament about its proposed programme for the next four years and parliament gets to hold a vote of confidence in the incoming government.
So how long could it all take? It’s like to be measured in weeks rather than days. And in Finnish tradition nobody will want to still be having discussions any time close to Midsummer!