Finland tries to build left-right coalition

Helsinki: Finns face a broad, incohesive coalition government for the next four years as the Social Democrats, who narrowly won weekend elections, focus on keeping the surging anti-immigration populists out, analysts said.

Sunday’s polls were closely watched to see how the nationalists would do ahead of European Parliament elections in May when many believe they and the eurosceptic camp as a whole could make significant inroads.

As Finland’s politicos digested the vote, the big question on Monday was what role the far-right anti-immigration Finns Party — which more than doubled its seats in Parliament under the leadership of hardline nationalist Jussi Halla-aho — would play.

The Social Democrats came in as Finland’s biggest party with 17.7 per cent of the votes, just ahead of the Finns Party on 17.5 per cent.

Halla-aho told Finnish media on Monday he did not want to repeat the mistakes his party made in 2015 when it entered government and was forced to compromise on immigration and EU bailouts.

“We were flexible about the wrong things,” he told Finland’s biggest newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.

“I don’t see it as possible that the Finns Party would take part in a government which doesn’t clearly commit to reducing humanitarian migration,” he added.

On the campaign trail, Halla-aho told supporters he wanted to see the refugee intake reduced to “almost zero”.

This would appear to clash directly with the Social Democratic Party’s manifesto pledge to make it easier for refugees in Finland to be joined by family members from their home countries. Mr Rinne said his party disagreed with the Finns Party on immigration, the EU, and economic policy, and, most importantly, in their core values.

“I don’t think that we can work together with the Finns because of those differences,” he said, adding that he expected to be able to instead find a compromise with either the conservative National Coalition or the Centre party.

While Halla-aho said he would be interested in the post of interior minister, in charge of immigration, he was also upbeat in interviews at the prospect of being in Opposition.   

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