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On Sunday, April 14, Finnish voters will head to the polls to choose their representatives in parliament for the next four years and decide which party will form the next government.
Two hundred seats are up for grabs, including one for a representative of Ǻland, and the winning party will have to secure at least 101 of them by forming a coalition with other parties.
We have put together a quick rundown of Finland’s main political parties, their central tenets, and key policies on the agenda for the upcoming election.
There are nine main contenders in the race.
On the conservative side stand the parties of the government coalition: the Centre Party (Keskusta), the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus), the Blue Reform (Sininen tulevaisuus) and somewhat further to the right the populist Finns Party (Perussuomalaiset), who were ousted from the coalition in 2017.
The Centre Party has traditionally stood for decentralization, free trade and the interests of rural communities and small businesses. The National Coalition Party’s blend of liberal and conservative principles appeals mainly to high-income urban voters, as they combine socially liberal principles with economic freedom.
The Finns Party focuses primarily on immigration control but also champions the welfare state, thereby combining progressive economic policies with conservative social policies.
Sentiments about the EU and NATO vary from the Finns Party’s outright criticism to the Centre Party’s internal disagreements on the matter to the National Coalition’s support for integration.
The opposition Christian Democrats (Kristillisdemokraatit), who currently hold five seats, are also a socially conservative party.
The left bloc, on the other hand, is comprised of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the largest opposition party in parliament with strong ties to labor unions, as well as the Green League (Vihreä liitto), the Left Alliance (Vasemmistoliitto) and the Swedish People’s Party, a liberal party which represents the interests of the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland.
These parties promote social and economic equality and tend to be pro-EU, although the Left Alliance has a strong Eurosceptic faction. Environmental concerns are spearheaded by the Green League.
The political landscape at a glance
Following the failure of a crucial health-care reform bill which sought to make good on the Centre Party’s electoral platform of spending cuts to Finland’s robust welfare state, the government of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä resigned on March 8 but stayed on in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed.
Sipilä’s Centre Party has also struggled to maintain a stable coalition with their two coalition partners, the National Coalition Party and the Finns Party, after the latter party elected Jussi Halla-aho as their new leader in 2017.
This led to a split within the party between the party’s moderate members and Halla-aho’s presumably radical views. Many prominent members of the Finns, including those who occupied cabinet positions, formed a new party called the Blue Reform (Sininen Tulevaisuus), which replaced the Finns in the government coalition.
These issues have left the ruling party trailing in the polls. The healthcare reform’s proposal for regional, rather than municipal, healthcare administration has also been met with some resistance in sparsely populated rural areas, which tend to be the party’s main voting base. On the other hand, the party was arguably acting on its core value of decentralization.
The National Coalition Party, who pushed for a more privatized healthcare, seems to have lost some support as well, especially following a scandal detailing terrible working conditions in a private provider of care for senior citizens.
What’s on the agenda?
Given the problems of the Sipilä government, the opposition Social Democrats (SDP), led by Antti Rinne, has emerged as a clear frontrunner.
They have been a vocal critic of the coalition’s efforts to introduce austerity measures, especially when it came to cuts to Finland’s internationally lauded education system.
However, even if their sizeable lead in the polls translates to an electoral victory, forming an exclusively left-leaning government with the Green League, the Left Alliance, and the Swedish People’s Party might prove to be a challenge, forcing them to look across the aisle to build a coalition.
There is no doubt that the issue of rising public spending will remain at the top of the agenda in this election, especially since the Sipilä Cabinet failed to pass their healthcare reform.
Additionally, the Green League is looking to frame the election as a ‘climate election’, which is likely to resonate with a lot of young urban voters, while the surging Finns Party’s focus on tighter immigration control has also struck a chord with many voters, particularly following reports of sexual abuse cases in Oulu in which immigrants were the suspected perpetrators.