Welfare Status 21.5 – Government Negotiatons


Good day, once again. I’m Tatu Ahponen, here to give you the Welfare Status. The Finnish politics continue to be dominated
by the aftermath of the election, as we move on to the process where
parties start forming the government, but people are finally waking up to the
European elections, as well – just in time for the voting to start. Of course, many of the same themes
that come up during the government formation process – the future of the welfare
state, the environmental crisis and the strengthening
of the far right nationalist politics – also come up in the European elections,
so everything keeps affecting everything else. But what about the government? Formateur Antti Rinne finally announced his
preferred basis for a government two weeks ago –
a center-left coalition of the Social Democrats, Centre, Greens, Left Alliance and the Swedish
People’s Party. Such a coalition has also elicited howls of
rage from many of the members of the neoliberal
National Coalition, convinced that without their party in charge, Finland is positively on the road to collapse, economics wise. Same opinions are shared by the wealthy business
class, evening tabloid papers and think tanks
underpinning National Coalition’s strong position in Finland. The True Finns, of course, are equally convinced
that any government without them is going to
leave Finland an Islamized, feminized, red-green mess,
but many are surprised by how much National Coalition
and True Finns are starting to resemble each other
at the level of rhetoric – and finding each other
as potential opposition partners, along with the tiny Christian Democrats. But why did Rinne go with Centre instead of
National Coalition? After all, one of the clear reasons of media
anger is that most “serious experts” had predicted
that Social Democrats would form a “blue-red” government
where they would let the National Coalition dictate most policies,
but it turned out National Coalition didn’t want that –
it wanted to dictate everything, at least insofar economics goes. Yes, according to most reports,
National Coalition got overconfident by their belief
that they were the only option for Rinne and insisted that essentially their entire
economic line would be adopted wholesale as a condition
for their participation. Meanwhile, Centre begun sending increasing
signals that they were after all willing to consider
governmental participation – their leader-in-waiting Antti Kaikkonen, who will probably replace
the former prime minister Sipilä in autumn, indicating that “the door is 5 cm open”,
and in the end the party decided to step through that crack
and accepted Rinne’s invitation to join the government negotiations. However, these negotiations are not expected
to be easy. The main questions are related to economy
and business, environmental questions, and family leaves. The Centre wants to continue the former government’s
tight budget line and is not ready to cut various
business subsidies, while Rinne wants a more expansive financial
policy and the left parties, and the unions backing
them, wish to overhaul Finland’s current business
subsidies regime. A particular point of contention is tax deduction
for entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, on environmental issues, the Greens
and Centre disagree on a host of issues, such a the amount
of timber felling that the country can allow considering the
natural diversity and climate goals in Finland, or a planned
railway to Arctic Sea that would go through the lands
of the indigenous Sami minority. Meanwhile, regarding the family leave, various
feminist organizations have long wanted to increase
paternity leave to be equal to the maternity leave, so as
to not create inequalities regarding the employment
of women. However, Centre is more reticent, as they
fear this would include cutting the subsidy for parents – mostly
mothers – who wish to nurture their children at home. All of these discussions can be solved with enough compromises, though of course these will have to come from all sides. Still, it is obvious that the Centre is in
a hard situation and playing hardball since it has to prove
something to its supporters, many of whom still believe
the party should have entered the opposition after losing the election. Indeed, there is still a chance everything
comes to naught if the Centre decides that it cannot get enough
of its goals through, or if one of the other parties gets tired of their demands. This scenario would indeed be preferred by the right-wing parties – National Coalition
and True Finns – which re not only incredibly furious about everything,
but also increasingly coming to resemble each other with National Coalition indicating their politicians are willing to drop their supposed social
liberalism to work with the nationalist views of True Finns,
and True Finns adopting right-wing economic rhetoric
about threatened enterprises and taxpayers. Listening to these sources, one might think
that the entire country was about to become Soviet
Union or Venezuela, or that thousands of companies
are just awaiting for the moment to move themselves
to Estonia – solely because Finland might be getting a
centre-left government of the sorts it has had multiple
times before. The media has joined this effort,
making story after story about, for instance, the supposed power of lobbyists on the government
being formed – lobbyists meaning the active members of Social
Democrats and Left Alliance participating in government
negotiations who also work for blue-collar trade unions,
a far cry from the actual effort of private health care lobbyists
to basically almost revamp the Finnish health care system. At any rate, it is clear that all of this
reflects trends that we’ll also see in the European
elections – the general choice Europeans have to make
between the neoliberal line in power in the last decades
and a line focused on social Europe, the environmental
crisis barreling down on all of us and how to respond
to it, and increasingly powerful far right and the
growing bonds between the mainstream right and the nationalist
elements. Sadly, even here, much of the Finnish debate
on European elections, insofar as it even exists considering
how much political energy has been spent on the elections
and is now being spent on political negotiations
by various parties and their workers. Even when the elections are a focus in the
news, it’s on vacuous things such as whether it
is proper for MPs who were elected to the parliament
to now run in the European elections. Still, it remains to be seen what happens
– and how this will affect the negotiation process
and Finnish politics in general. For now, though, good night, day or evening.

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