Chairman of the National Coalition Party Petteri Orpo says “there is no political crisis in Finland” after a Blue Reform MP jumped ship from that party to Orpo’s.
In essence, the numbers don’t matter too much since both the NCP and Blues are part of the three party government coalition with Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s Centre Party. But the Blues have cast the defection as an effort by the NCP to further sow the seeds of discontent within the coalition, and provoke a government collapse and new elections.
Turunen’s Decision Process
Kaj Turunen, an MP from Savonlinna in south east Finland, says he’s been thinking about joining the NCP since last summer – the same time the Finns Party split in half, leaving the Blue Future group inside government, and the old Finns Party faithful out of the coalition.
However, it was only in February when Turunen says he started having talks with NCP officials, and in the last two weeks he made the concrete decision to jump ship.
“The background to my transition is not a great drama. I have for some time pointed out that the National Coalition Party policies best match my own way of thinking” Turnunen said in a press release on Tuesday afternoon.
Is this a political crisis or not?
Petteri Orpo says no, and denies his party actively courted Turunen to foment dissent within the government coalition over controversial social and healthcare reform, which faces an uphill battle to get passed by parliament this term.
Orpo says his party is not in talks with any other Blue Reform MPs to switch sides, and he feels the reaction to the defection of this one MP was overblown.
At an afternoon press conference, Blue Reform Chairman Sampo Terho (Blue) said he wants the chairs of the three coalition parties to meet as soon as possible.
“It is obvious the social and healthcare reform is in trouble. The timetable and contents of the bill are in difficulty […] and we have a suspicion the National Coalition Party is trying to get the government to crash” said Terho, who says a meeting between party chiefs is needed to overcome mutual suspicion and continue government cooperation.
Meanwhile Prime Minister Sipilä (Centre) says news of the MP defection came as a surprise to him. Speaking on a visit to Vaasa, Sipilä said that he had met earlier with both Terho and Orpo, but news of the defection came after that.
“Of course the [Member of Parliament] has the full freedom to act as he pleases. But it would always be good to announce in advance so that there would be no surprises” Sipilä told reporters.