Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Helsinki calling

Next month, Scots go to the polls to decide whether to vote SNP and make Ed Miliband prime minister, or vote for Scottish Labour and their plan to go into coalition with the Conservatives, keeping David Cameron in 10 Downing Street.

But before that, a brief interlude from our friends in Finland. 

Next Sunday, the Finnish general election takes place, and Finns will send 200 delegates to the unicameral Eduskunta. The current government is a four-party Grand Coalition comprising the conservative National Coalition, the Social Democrats, the Swedish People's Party, and the Christian Democrats. The Greens, and the Left Alliance were original members of the coalition but flounced out in a huff last year, the Greens in September for the not unreasonable objection that the government decided to build a brand new nuclear power plant, and Vasemmistoliitto over budget cuts to social welfare in April.

Halfway through the present parliament, the National Coalition leader Jyrki Katainen announced that he was resigning to spend more time with his consonants, and Alexander Stubb replaced him as Kokoomus leader and prime minister almost exactly a year ago.

The opposition is made up of the Ukip-style True Finns, the Centre Party, the aforementioned Left Alliance and Greens, two dissident MPs who voted against the Left Alliance's official choice for prime minister and walked out of the party, and an MP who somehow managed to get himself expelled from the True Finns for saying that Anders Breivik's terrorist attacks in Oslo and Utoeya could be explained by Norway being too soft on immigration.

Since Finnish independence, no party has ever won a majority in the Eduskunta partly owing to the republic's proportional representation system, although the 1916 general election, when Finland was a grand duchy within Russia, did produce a slim majority of two seats for the Social Democrats. 

Current opinion polling seems to suggest that Finland will continue to wait for a majority government (who could have predicted that Finland would have won the Eurovision Song Contest before it elected a majority government...), with the most recent poll from Taloustutkimus showing a Centre party lead of about 8,7%. 

In descending order, the last poll shows:

Centre 24,9%
Social Democrats 16,2%
National Coalition 16,1%
True Finns 14,6%
Green League 8,9%
Left Alliance 8,5%
Swedish Peoples' Party 4,5%
Christian Democrats 3,9%
Others 2,4%

That translates very roughly (and not completely proportionally because of the way Finland is divided electorally into not-entirely-equal-sized ridings) into a seat prediction from Accuscore of 

Centre 53 seats (+17)
True Finns 36 (-1)
Social Democrats 35 (-7)
National Coalition 34 (-10)
Left Alliance 16  (+4)
Green League 14 (+4)
Swedish Peoples' Party 9 (-)
Christian Democrats 2 (-4)
Others 1 (-)

The "Other" MP is Ă…land's solitary MP (an independent who currently sits with the Swedish representatives in parliament).

Finland is well used to coalition government. The current configuration is 21 seats short of a majority (if the projections are accurate). Assuming the Left Alliance and the Greens have pished on their chips, this would mean they'd have to bring the True Finns into power if they want to keep the Centre Party out. 

Another logical configuration would be the Centre-Social Democrats-Greens, which would only have a majority of 1. Adding the Left Alliance to that would build a strong centre-left government with a comfortable majority. 

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