Shock Resignation in Finland Casts Doubt on Ruling Coalition

Kati Pohjanpalo

(Bloomberg) -- Finns just lost a prime minister. Now they’re wondering whether the coalition that’s governed them for the past half year will be able to continue.

The five-party government suffered an existential shock on Tuesday after one of its biggest members, the Center Party, withdrew its support from Prime Minister Antti Rinne. With the 57-year-old former union boss out of the picture, attention has turned to the coalition itself. Meanwhile, disillusionment with those in power has fed a surge in support for the nationalist Finns Party, with polls indicating that roughly a quarter of voters back the anti-immigration group.

Petteri Orpo, who leads the National Coalition Party that dominates the opposition, now wants to restore a parliamentary split that reunites the more conservative parties in one bloc. He says the Center Party should abandon its efforts to work with the Social Democrats and other left-leaning groups that made up Rinne’s government.

“Center-right parties have a parliamentary majority, and forming such a government would be possible,” Orpo, a former finance minister and deputy prime minister, said in an interview.

The coalition that Rinne led was cobbled together after inconclusive elections in April. It was supposed to be Finland’s answer to the kind of Grand Coalition that was made famous in Germany.

Governments spanning the political spectrum are nothing new in Finland. But this time, efforts to reach consensus backfired, and relations within the coalition soured. In the end, all it took to topple the prime minister was a postal dispute.

The next step is for all parties to sit down for government talks. In the meantime, Rinne will lead a caretaker cabinet. His Social Democrats and the Center Party that ousted him have both said they’d like the coalition to stay intact.

Orpo says talks should be as open as possible.

“I want us to have proper discussions with all parties, and to make the policy stance a starting point,” he said.

Talks between the parliamentary groups are set for Thursday, where the goal will be to set a deadline for the first stage of the process. The Social Democrats are proposing Rinne to lead those talks. The party has also called a meeting for Sunday to choose a candidate for prime minister, allowing its grassroots organizations to have the final say.

The Finns Party said it doesn’t expect to be involved in the talks in any serious capacity.

(Adds Rinne to lead talks in penultimate paragraph)

To contact the reporter on this story: Kati Pohjanpalo in Helsinki at kpohjanpalo@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tasneem Hanfi Brögger at tbrogger@bloomberg.net, Nick Rigillo

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