The happy news has just reached me that the True Finns have decided to enter opposition. The leader of the populist party, which is strongly anti-immigration and anti-Swedish, Timo Soini annouced at a press conference this morning that his party could not join a government together with the National Coalition Kokoomus party and the Social Democrats due to their agreement on taking part in EU economic support to Portugal.
The leader of the largest party after 17 April’s election, Kokoomus leader Jyrki Katainen, is now free to negotiate with other parties on forming a government. The Centre party, which performed extremely badly in the election have repeatedly said they will sit in opposition – this is unlikely to change. Katainen will thus need to look to a relatively large number of parties if he is to form a stable government. Kokoomus and SDP look to be certain. The Greens have also signalled that they agree with the Kokoomus-SDP agreement on Portugal, so they may well feature. It seems also likely the the Swedish People’s Party (SFP) will stay in government. Katainen is likely to wish to see SFP in government as the two parties hold similar views on many economic policies; a useful counterweight to the centre-left SDP. The prominent True Finn member of parliament Pertti “Veltto” Virtanen had previously told the media that he will “vomit for 5 days straight” if SFP sits in the next government. He should probably be thinking about stocking up on cleaning equipment.
It remains to be seen whether a strong government can be formed of so many parties from different ideological backgrounds, but it has been done before in this country. It also remains to be seen whether the once dominant Centre party, if in opposition, will be overshadowed there by the True Finns. And how will the True Finns perform as an opposition party? Many had suggested that if they’d entered government, they’d soon lose popularity – they’d actually have to take responsibility and make decisions and their populist programme would have been exposed as unworkable. That might have been the kiss of death for them in the next election. Now they may well be able to benefit from being able to continue their populism in the form of a critique of a new government that is likely going to need to make unpopular decisions due to the global economic situation. Sadly, we probably haven’t seen the end of Soini’s gang just yet.