6-party government in Finland after lengthy talks

Associated Press
Chairman Jyrki Katainen of the National Coalition during a press conference, in Helsinki, Finland on Friday, June 17, 2011. Finland's prime minister-designate says six parties have agreed to form a broad coalition government after weeks of complex talks that lingered mainly because of economic issues. Jyrki Katainen says his conservative National Coalition Party will govern with the Social Democrats, the left-wing Left Alliance, the Greens, the Swedish People's Party and the Christian Democrats.  (AP Photo/Mikko Stig, Lehtikuva)  FINLAND OUT. NO THIRD PARTY SALES.
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HELSINKI (AP) — Six parties across the political spectrum united Friday to form a government, saving Finland from the embarrassment of having no prime minister at a key European Union summit next week.

Coalition talks had dragged on for weeks, marred by disagreements over economic policy and European bailouts, following an April 17 election that for a while appeared to have catapulted a nationalist party into power.

After a previous attempt failed, a relieved Prime Minister-designate Jyrki Katainen announced that six parties had agreed on the main priorities for a broad-based coalition government.

Katainen's National Coalition Party, which won the election, joined forces with the Social Democrats, the left-wing Left Alliance, the Greens, the Swedish People's Party and the Christian Democrats. The coalition, dubbed "the six-pack" by Katainen, will command 126 seats in the 200-seat Parliament.

The True Finns, a nationalist group that opposed bailout packages for debt-ridden European Union nations, scored the biggest gains in the election but were dropped from coalition talks because of disagreements on EU policy.

At the insistence of the small Christian Democrats — with close ties to the country's state Lutheran church — the coalition said it would consider tightening Finland's abortion laws.

Katainen pledged to improve the competitiveness of the Nordic country's economy and boost employment and entrepreneurship by lowering taxes, especially for lower income households. The government would raise some excise taxes and cut spending to balance the budget.

"Finland needs to get back on a growth track," Katainen said at a news conference. "We need ... such economic policies that will boost employment and bring investments to Finland."

Friday's agreement paves the way for Katainen to be formally approved by Parliament next week, so that he can travel to a June 23-24 EU summit as prime minister.

In their program, the coalition parties pledged not to change Finland's EU policies, committing the country to be actively involved in key EU projects also in the future. But in a nod to the euroskeptic sentiment that boosted the True Finns, they promised to also take into account views critical of European integration.

The coalition said it would not grant new permits to build nuclear power plants, dealing a blow to national utility Fortum Oyj, which has expressed interest in increasing its current nuclear capacity.

The conservatives will get six portfolios in the 19-member Cabinet, including the posts of prime minister and foreign trade minister. The Social Democrats will also get six portfolios including finance and foreign affairs.

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