News ID: 251469
Published: 0324 GMT April 15, 2019

Finland eyes left-right coalition to keep populists out

Finland eyes left-right coalition to keep populists out
Antti Rinne, head of Finland's Social Democratic Party which emerged as the largest group in Sunday elections, faces a difficult task in forming a coalition government.

Finns face a broad, incohesive coalition government for the next four years as the Social Democrats, who narrowly won weekend elections, focus on keeping the surging anti-immigration populists out, analysts said.

Sunday's polls were closely watched to see how the nationalists would do ahead of European Parliament elections in May when many believe they and the eurosceptic camp as a whole could make significant inroads, AFP reported.

As Finland's politicos digested the vote, the big question Monday was what role the far-right anti-immigration Finns Party – which more than doubled its seats in Parliament under the leadership of hardline nationalist Jussi Halla-aho – would play.

The Social Democrats came in as Finland's biggest party with 17.7 percent of the votes, just ahead of the Finns Party on 17.5 percent.

Halla-aho told Finnish media Monday he did not want to repeat the mistakes his party made in 2015 when it entered government and was forced to compromise on immigration and EU bailouts.

"I don't see it as possible that the Finns Party would take part in a government which doesn't clearly commit to reducing humanitarian migration," he told Finland's biggest newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.

On the campaign trail, Halla-aho told supporters he wanted to see the refugee intake reduced to "almost zero".

This would appear to clash directly with the Social Democratic Party's manifesto pledge to make it easier for refugees in Finland to be joined by family members from their home countries.

Speaking to AFP on Monday, Antti Rinne said his party disagreed with the Finns Party on immigration, the EU, and economic policy, and, most importantly, in their core values.

"I don't think that we can work together with the Finns because of those differences," he said, adding that he expected to be able to instead find a compromise with either the conservative National Coalition or the Centre Party.

While Halla-aho said he would be interested in the post of interior minister, in charge of immigration, he was also upbeat in interviews at the prospect of being in opposition.

He told reporters that the huge increase to his party's parliamentary seat-count – from 17 to 39, just one shy of the Social Democrats – would give his party sway over any future discussion on immigration, whether or not it was a member of the government.


Grand left-right coalition


Political analyst Sini Korpinen told AFP that, in a bid to keep the nationalists in opposition, a coalition between the leftist Social Democrats and the center-right National Coalition appeared almost a certainty.

"It's very hard to see that the other parties would say no to working with the Social Democrats because then we would be in a situation with Halla-aho trying to form a government and I just don't see that happening," she said.

Korpinen predicted the Social Democrats would likely try to build a coalition with the National Coalition, the Greens, the far-left Left Alliance, and centrist Swedish People's Party.

"But the broad coalition Rinne will need to keep the Finns Party out will be difficult to manage and ineffective," Korpinen said.

Goran Djupsund, political science professor at Abo Akademi University, said the outcome showed how rising populism across Europe was fragmenting and weakening political systems.

"When populists win, the EU also becomes hard to govern... then no one cheers, with perhaps the exception of our neighbor to the east," Djupsund said.


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