“Values” at the heart of coalition government negotiations

Social Democrats will take the lead to try and form a new national government, but will have to collaborate with at least three partners to make it work.

File picture of balloons at SDP election night event / Credit: News Now Finland

Social Democrat leader Antti Rinne has put the theme of “values” at the centre of his plans to try and form Finland’s next coalition government.

And he’s not alone.

Responding to the entrenched electoral success of the populist Finns Party, a number of politicians stressed to News Now Finland that having partners with compatible values-based policies was important for successful government negotiations.

File picture of SDP leader Antti Rinne voting in Mäntsälä / Credit: News Now Finland

Rinne says the election was about the future of Finland, and while he didn’t rule out talking to any party in particular, he was looking for partners with a similar outlook on the issues that matter to Social Democrats.

“I have said that my values are very different to [Finns Party leader] Jussi Halla-aho‘s values, and that’s a very big question for me. We need to have a coalition government where there is the same value base” he told News Now Finland on election day, a comment he repeated during Monday morning television interviews.

“The big question is how to reform education, how to reform our social and welfare system, how to care for older people and those are very big questions for us in our party and also in Finnish society” Rinne explained.

Finns Party bounces back from poll lows

The right wing Finns Party added one extra member of parliament to their 2015 general election total; gained around 15,000 votes; but lost almost 1.5% of the share of votes from the last election.

In some ways it’s a remarkable comeback story since just last summer, when the party struggled to get into double digits in opinion polls.

However, branding environmental concerns as ‘climate change hysteria’; and beating the anti-immigrant drum loudly in the wake of a string of sex abuse allegations in Oulu and Helsinki apparently resonated with voters, and saw them rapidly regain popularity in the polls.

Finns Party leader Jussi Halla-aho votes in Eira on election day 2019 / Credit: News Now Finland

“I think every political party should bring some added value to the political debate, and I think the added value we bring is a stricter and more critical approach to questions like immigration and the climate policies” said party leader Jussi Halla-aho, who has convicted by Finland’s Supreme Court a decade ago on counts of disturbing religious worship and ethnic agitation.

“We want to reduce to as low as possible the kind of immigration that in our opinion is damaging to the public finances of our country and to the safety and security of people. That means mostly so-called humanitarian immigration from the third world” he told News Now Finland adding that pursuing “more moderate and sensible” climate change policies wouldn’t “chase industries away from Finland to countries like China”.

Halla-aho did not cite any examples where this has happened.

Some analysts have noted that it might be more advantageous for Halla-aho’s Finns Party to stay out of government, where they can shout from the sidelines and criticise without having to give any constructive input to running the country.

File picture showing exterior of parliament building / Credit: News Now Finland

Red lines for coalition talks 

Although there will be values-based red lines that some political parties will not want to cross when it comes to possibly going into government with the Finns Party, there are also many policy differences between the various parties to take into consideration.

A natural synergy between left-leaning parties like the Social Democrats, Greens and Left Alliance doesn’t have the numbers to make a working majority in parliament so they’ll need the support also of the National Coalition Party’s 38 seats, or the Centre Party’s 31 seats to form a mandate.

“Theoretically it’s easy to build more than 100 members of parliament in a block” says outgoing environment minister Kimmo Tiilikainen (Centre), who lost his seat in the election.

“But how on earth can these different parties can find common policies? There will be many disappointed people before all compromises are done and I’m not sure which parties are able to form a new government” he tells News Now Finland.

The Swedish People’s Party, who bring a consensus-building 10 MPs to the negotiating table have been part of every Finnish government since the 1980s, bar the last four years.

Their leading Helsinki MP, former presidential candidate and Minorities Ombudsman Eva Biaudet says they support the Left and Green parties’ stance on human rights and migrant issues in particular, in opposition to the Finns Party.

“I think there’s no way we will be working with the True Finns [Finns Party] in the same government” states Biaudet.

“I don’t think anybody else will either”.

Composite image of Eva Biaudet (L) and Kimmo Tiilikianen (R) / Credit: News Now Finland