Cen­trists win Fin­land elec­tion, face tough talks

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY MATTI HUUHTANEN

The op­po­si­tion Cen­ter Party has won Fin­land’s par­lia­men­tary elec­tion but its new leader faces tough talks on form­ing a gov­ern­ment fol­low­ing the suc­cess of the pop­ulist, anti-estab­lish­ment Finns Party that placed ahead of the main gov­ern­ment part­ners, the con­ser­va­tives and So­cial Democrats.

Cen­ter Party leader Juha Sip­ila de­clared victory in Sun­day’s elec­tion and will take on the role of form­ing the new rul­ing coali­tion, say­ing he would ap­proach the lead­ers of the three par­ties on Mon­day.

“To­mor­row the phones will be ring­ing, and we’ll work out how to take it from there,” Sip­ila said. “Find­ing trust be­tween the fu­ture gov­ern­ment par­ties is the most im­por­tant fac­tor.”

The self-ef­fac­ing mil­lion­aire busi­ness­man, who en­tered pol­i­tics four years ago, said the main prob­lem in con­ser­va­tive Prime Min­is­ter Alexander Stubb’s cur­rent coali­tion had been a lack of trust among the rul­ing par­ties.

He warned that Fin­land, in the midst of a three-year re­ces­sion, was in a “dif­fi­cult” sit­u­a­tion. “It will take 10 years to get Fin­land back into shape,” Sip­ila told re­porters.

Stubb had cam­paigned on eco­nomic is­sues and ac­knowl­edged his gov­ern­ment had not made suf­fi­cient re­forms. He has also ad­vo­cated spend­ing cuts of 6 bil­lion eu­ros (NT$200.2 bil­lion; US$6.5 bil­lion) over the next four years, a pro­posal strongly op­posed by Sip­ila who says half the amount in cuts would suf­fice.

Stubb Con­ceded De­feat

“It’s a fact that the Cen­ter Party has won the elec­tion,” he said. “Now we have to fo­cus ... on how to get Fin­land back on track to growth.”

Finns Party leader, Timo Soini, who ve­he­mently op­poses bailouts for ail­ing eu­ro­zone mem­bers and ad­vo­cates kick­ing Greece out of the euro, dropped out of gov­ern­ment for­ma­tion talks in 2011 be­cause the other par­ties sup­ported bailouts.

He de­scribed his party’s per­for­mance on Sun­day as a “re­peat rum­ble” of 2011 when they rose from be­ing a tiny po­lit­i­cal force to be­come the coun­try’s third largest po­lit­i­cal party, caus­ing a po­lit­i­cal storm and headache for Euro­pean coun­tries pre­par­ing bailouts for eu­ro­zone part­ners.

Soini de­clined to dis­cuss whether his party would take part in fu­ture gov­ern­ment talks.

“We’re here in Fin­land to stay be­cause we are needed,” he told shout­ing and clap­ping sup­port­ers in Helsinki. “Our work has been re­warded; let’s reap the benefits.”

With all the votes counted, Sip­ila’s cen­ter-right party, which tra­di­tion­ally rep­re­sents farm­ers and land own­ers, won 21 per­cent of the votes giv­ing it 49 seats in the 200-mem­ber Par­lia­ment —an in­crease of 14 from the pre­vi­ous elec­tion. It was fol­lowed by the Finns Party with 38 seats — one less than in 2011.

Stubb’s con­ser­va­tive Na­tional Coali­tion party had 37 seats, down seven seats, fol­lowed by its main coali­tion part­ner, the So­cial Democrats with 34 seats — eight less than in the pre­vi­ous elec­tion.

Four other par­ties each had less that 9 per­cent of the votes, for the re­main­ing 42 seats.

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