Centrists win Finnish elections, PM Stubb ousted
By Peter Teffer
Finnish voters got rid of prime minister Alexander Stubb's government in parliamentary elections Sunday (19 April), leaving the winning Centre Party to find coalition partners on its left or right.
The eurosceptic Finns party lost one seat, but gained in strength, becoming the second largest party in the legislature.
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The Centre Party won 49 of 200 seats, gaining 14 since the previous election in 2011. Its leader, businessman and millionaire Juha Sipila, is expected to become Finland's new leader.
Sipila's main concern will be to repair the Nordic country's spluttering economy, although the centrist politician told journalists on Sunday evening that “it will be about 10-year project to get Finland in shape again”.
“A combination of cuts, reforms and growth” is needed, he added.
To form a majority coalition, Sipila will need the support of at least two other parties.
In an analysis of the electorate four months before the vote, Finnish historian Mikko Majander predicted that it would be the Centre Party, rather than the Finns party – formerly known as True Finns – to profit from the government's decline in popularity.
The centrists are “a plausible and secure choice for the bourgeois voters who are disappointed with the conservatives and mistrust the populists”, he wrote.
However, while the populist anti-establishment party, led by Timo Soini, lost one of its seats, other parties lost more. Soini now leads the second-largest party in parliament, with 38 seats.
It did worse than four years ago, but better than in the European Parliament elections of 2014.
“We are here to stay,” Soini said at a press conference on Sunday evening.
Stubb's centre-right National Coalition party lost seven seats and ended up at 37, while his coalition partner, the centre-left Social Democratic Party, lost eight and now stands at 34.
Stubb had been prime minister since his predecessor Jyrki Katainen stepped down in June 2014, but he was not able to stop the coalition's steadily declining popularity.
Katainen has since became the EU jobs commissioner.
The elections will bring Olli Rehn back to Finnish politics. The former EU commissioner and current member of the European Parliament was on the ballot for the Centre Party.
“Parties have to now concentrate on fixing Finland’s economy and not arguing over Greece”, Rehn said according to Bloomberg.
When Rehn was commissioner, he took a hard line on Greece's debt and spending, but recently noted that Finland must now introduce austerity measures to “fix the economy”.
While the elections produced a clear winner, there are several coalition options possible.
“It’s clear that the Finns or any other party can’t dictate,” Rehn said.
“All parties must be able to compromise on their non-negotiable questions and with a strong will build cooperation and get Finland out of this mire.”