The conservatives and the extreme right agree on a coalition government in Finland | International

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Petteri Orpo, on April 27 in Helsinki. Behind, from the left, the leader of the Finns Party, Riikka Purra; the president of the Swedish People's Party, Anna-Maja Henriksson; and that of the Christian Democrats, Sari Essayah.Heikki Saukkomaa (AP)

Almost two and a half months after the parliamentary elections were held in Finland, Petteri Orpo, the conservative leader, announced on Thursday night that he had reached a government agreement with the ultra-right and two other minority formations, the Christian Democrats and the Finnish Swedish People's Party (RKP). Orpo reported late at night that he had concluded the negotiation between the four formations. The details of the pact and the distribution of ministerial portfolios will be known, at the earliest, this Friday. "All the issues have been resolved and the papers are ready," said Orpo, who will become the next prime minister of the Nordic country.

After the parliamentary elections on April 2, in which the conservatives and the ultra-rightists narrowly defeated the Social Democrats —the three formations obtained very even results, between 19.9% ​​and 20.8% of the votes— , the Finnish president, Sauli Niinistö, entrusted Orpo with the formation of the government. The 53-year-old conservative leader, a skilled negotiator, took three weeks to announce that he would try to reach a coalition agreement with the far-right Finns Party, the Christian Democrats and the RKP. The four parties account for 108 of the 200 seats in the Eduskunta (Parliament).

Orpo had the option of leaning towards the eurosceptic and anti-immigration party as the main partner or opting to add its seats to those of the Social Democratic Party, which governed until it lost at the polls. Had an agreement been reached with the Social Democrats, it would have been easy to incorporate other left or right formations into the coalition. Finally, Orpo, former Minister of Agriculture, Interior and Finance, opted to join the forces of the National Coalition, the party he leads, to those of the Finns Party, the Christian Democrats and the RKP, and launched the formation of the most rightist in the history of the Nordic country.

It will not be the first time that the extreme right enters a Finnish Executive. Between 2015 and 2017, the National Coalition and the far-right party (then called True Finns) were part of a tripartite government headed by Juha Sipilä, of the Center Party, a formation with an agrarian tradition that on this occasion, after its electoral debacle, ruled out the possibility of re-editing that coalition and announced his intention to spend four years in opposition.

The new government made up of four parties will succeed the coalition of five formations led by the Social Democrat Sanna Marin during the last legislature. The RKP, which has its strongholds in the municipalities with a Swedish-speaking majority, will go from being part of a center-left Executive to one that leans heavily to the right.

The conservative leader reiterated during the campaign, and after his electoral victory, his intention to reduce the tax burden and carry out a budget adjustment of 6,000 million euros over the next four years, by reducing public spending and increasing productivity and the employment rate. The discrepancies in economic matters with the Social Democrats, as Orpo argued, made a German-style grand coalition unfeasible. For his part, Marin, who will cease to lead the Social Democratic Party next autumn and who lost the elections despite the high popularity ratings, has warned during the weeks of negotiations between the four formations furthest to the right of the Finnish parliamentary arch of the risk that those who are "in a weaker position" within society will ultimately "suffer the consequences" of the new government.

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discrepancies

The success of the negotiations between the four right wing formations was not guaranteed. The discrepancies between the ultra-rightists and the RKP were an obstacle. The Finns Party focused its electoral campaign on minimizing "toxic migration from outside the EU" and on reversing the ecological transition undertaken in recent years by the Social Democrats; two points that clearly made Swedish-speaking politicians uncomfortable. The discrepancies in linguistic matters and around the cultural rights of minorities were also evident. The far-right leader, Rikka Purra, acknowledged on more than one occasion during the negotiating rounds that the issue of immigration was being the main obstacle to reaching an agreement. The RKP youth leader, Julia Ståhle, announced her resignation a few days ago as a sign of rejection of the agreement reached with the far-rightists.

The future prime minister could have tried to reach an agreement only with the extreme right and the RKP, since they would have added 103 seats. However, he preferred to include the five Christian Democrat deputies to give the Executive greater stability.

Orpo, who has appeared this Thursday with the leaders of the other three formations, has refused to give any details about the programmatic agreement. The conservative politician limited himself to reiterating that there were no fringes left and that all that remains is to translate the agreed text into Swedish and English. Some Finnish political analysts have highlighted in recent days that, in addition to being the second longest negotiation in Finnish democracy (after that of 1951), the process has been much more opaque than usual, with practically no leaks to the press.

The new Finnish government will be clearly in tune with that of Sweden, where after the September elections there was an unprecedented political turn in the Scandinavian country that gave birth to a government of conservatives, liberals and Christian Democrats that has the decisive parliamentary support of the extreme right.

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