Finland’s Left-Right Coalition Unlikely to Survive Election

Neither of Finland’s two largest ruling parties wants to go into coalition with the other again.

With an election less than two weeks away, Finnish prime minister Alexander Stubb is turning on his left-wing coalition partners, saying governing with the Social Democrats has been a “traumatic experience.”

In an interview with the Financial Times, Stubb argued that his conservative National Coalition Party had been “bound by shackles coming from the left” and that there was no “team play” in the four-party coalition that also includes the Christian Democrats and the Swedish People’s Party.

The Greens withdrew from the government in September when the other parties approved the construction of a new nuclear power plant.

Since Stubb took over as prime minister from Jyrki Katainen in June last year, his party’s support has dropped from 22 to 16 percent. The middle-of-the-road Center Party, which was purposefully kept out of government by the National Coalition after losing the 2011 election, is polling at 25 percent support which would make it the largest party once again.

The left-right coalition’s inability to pull the economy out of three years of contraction appears to have convinced Finnish voters they’re better off falling back on a familiar model.

For much of Finland’s independent history, the Center Party (formerly the Agrarian League) and the Social Democrats alternated in power while the National Coalition seemed perennially stuck in second or third place.

With the Social Democrats polling at 16 percent — still down from the 19 percent support they got in the last election — and the Greens and far left at 17 percent together, a left-leaning government is most likely to take over later this month.

Like Stubb, the Social Democrats’ leader, Antti Rinne, says it would be better for the main left- and right-wing parties not to join in government again. “We don’t want to lose our welfare society,” he told the Financial Times.

Rinne concedes the need for deeper budget cuts. Nearly all parties do. But he wants to shift the emphasis away from reducing welfare and toward cutting military spending and raises taxes.

The largest parties also agree on the broad outlines of structural economic reform as well as austerity in Europe. Profligate eurozone member states like Greece should not expect more sympathy from a leftist government in Helsinki.