As expected, Finnish voters on Sunday turned out their country’s Conservative-led government and its pro-European prime minister, Alex Stubb. The opposition Centre Party came in a clear first, with 21% of the vote. But the verdict seemed more an expression of economic frustration and a rejection of the current government than an endorsement of a new one. Only the smallest of margins separated the runner-up parties: the Conservatives won 18%, the Finns Party 17.6%, and the Social Democrats 16.5%. Finns waited until the last minute to make up their minds. Less than a week before the election, more than 40% of voters were still undecided.
Finland has a long tradition of broad coalition governments, and Finns often say that they prefer to elect their politicians and then leave them alone to do their jobs. But voters have grown unusually fed up with the current government, which started out with six parties and now has four. The coalition is seen as being too broad and incapable of agreeing on necessary economic reforms. It has also failed in a major effort to reform the healthcare sector.
Juha Sipila, a businessman who took over as Centre Party leader in 2012, kept his campaign light on specifics. He is expected to keep his governing programme as vague as possible, to leave room for manoeuvre as he forms a coalition. But he will have a delicate job in handling the populist, anti-immigrant Finns Party. In 2011 the Finns Party tied for second place with 19% of the vote, but Timo Soini, the party’s leader, chose to stay out of government rather than condone bail-out programmes for Greece and other peripheral euro-zone countries. Some in Brussels worry that if Mr Soini joins the coalition this time, Finland could make further Greek rescue programmes impossible, possibly forcing Greece out of the euro.
Full Article: The Centre Party holds.