The right-wing, nationalist True Finns party has made sweeping gains in the Finnish Parliamentary elections, going from 4% to 19.4% of the vote. This places the party in third place, and feasibly within reach of coalition seats. This is worrying for the rest of Europe, as they have stated their opposition to the bailout fund, over which Finland would have a veto. Instability ahead? Let’s look at the new parliament make-up.
The conservative and strongly pro-EU National Coalition Party, led by Jyrki Katainen, won 20% of the vote and 44 seats in the 200-seat Finnish Parliament or Eduskunta. The Social Democrats gained 42 seats, the True Finns 39 and the Centre Party 35 seats. The Centre Party has already gain that their party will not go into coalition with the NCP (the Centre Party has just lost 16 seats).
Katainen of the NCP has said that his party “could work with any party” and that it is their “duty to form a majority government”. Timo Soini, leader of the True Finns has signalled he would be open to coalition talks with the NCP or Social Democrats (the True Finns are that peculiar breed of “social-democratic welfare combined with nationalism and xenophobia” – their other policies include opposition to gay-marriage, solely integrationist hegemonic immigration, and that young women should study less and instead spend their time giving birth to “Pure Finnish children”, according to Jan Sundberg, professor of Political Science at Helsinki University.
While, if the Centre Party are not willing to form a coalition with the NCP, which would gain majority if joined by the Green League and the Swedish People’s Party (as happened in the previous government), perhaps a left-wing coalition could instead be formed with the Social Democrats (42), Centre Party (35), Left Alliance (14) and the Green League (10). This would give a minor majority, though I am not knowledgeable enough about Finnish politics to decide if these parties would be able and willing to work together.
The same could be said of my other reaction, that a “Grand Coalition” of left and right could be orchestrated, including the NCP, Social Democrats, Greens, SPP, and perhaps others. This election is noticable for the upset in the previously stable Finnish political system – the big three parties (NCP,Centre and Social Democrats) were always the big three, and now that has been expanded. When similar happened in Czech politics, in the recent municipal elections, Top 09 (a fiscally conservative party) was blocked from taking many mayoral posts due to a coalition between social democrat CSSD and conservative ODS. But who knows? Top 09 are not a fundamentally illiberal party, like True Finns. Though, for example, if a new election gave the BNP in the UK third party status, I can imagine that Labour and Conservative may unite against them, as has happened in local elections in the past.
I call them a False Threat both because it is conceivable that despite having growing popularity, they will not be invited to government. They are also a False threat because the other parties, notably the NCP, are pro-EU enough to feasibly offer some concessions to the emergent eurosceptic party, but not be willing to veto the bail-out fund for Portugal in its entirety.
As is often the case with eurosceptics, the True Finns are frankly running on a false position. They campaigned on a strong anti-bailout position, and with all 17 countries in the Eurozone needing to approve the first-stage of bail-out, their presence in a Finnish coalition could torpedo the project for Portugal.
The bail-out fund is often portrayed as giving ‘free money’ to Ireland, Greece or perhaps Portugal. This isn’t true.
The ‘bail-out’ is a lending facility. It lends money at, admittedly, below-competition rates, though still a rate at which the underwritting countries will make a profit if the debtor countries don’t default. In other words, it is better to bail-out, as it makes us money, and it is better to offer a lot, to ensure that they do not default. It is not giving away free money “to ‘irresponsible’ countries to support their luxurious lifestyle”.
It is again a case of the European Union failing to actively engage the people of Europe, and present their case – instead letting Eurosceptics spread untruths and distortions about them, and controlling the debate. If the EU is going to survive and develop, we need to actively engage Eurosceptic arguments, showing how they are factually incorrect, and convincing people. It is the only way. Let’s start by showing the True Finns.
- Euroskeptic gains in Finnish vote challenge Europe (seattlepi.com)
- Anti-euro Finns could block Portugal aid: reaction (telegraph.co.uk)
- Euroskeptic gains in Finnish vote challenge Europe – BusinessWeek (news.google.com)
- Euro-Skeptic True Finns Make Big Inroads In Finland’s Election (forexlive.com)
- True Finns (bbc.co.uk)
- Euroskeptic gains in Finnish vote challenge Europe (seattletimes.nwsource.com)