On Thursday 6 June a centre-left coalition, including Left Alliance and led by Social Democratic Party, was formed. A very progressive government programme was adopted, although some conflicts are just postponed.
Left Alliance ministers. From the left: Hanna Sarkkinen (Social Services
and Health, 2021-2023), Li Andersson (Education, 2019-2023), Aino-Kaisa
Pekonen (Social Services and Health, 2019-2021). Source: fb Vasemmistoliitto;
A combined meeting of the party council and parliamentary group of Left Alliance decided unanimously to participate in five party coalition government. Before the decision, Left Alliance asked their members if the party should participate in this coalition after the negotiations on government programme were finalised on 3 June. The result was clear: A total of 97,2% of party members approving the participation in government, 0,3% voted blanc and 1,5% opposed the participation in government. Turnout was 33,7% out of 11,000 party members.
The formation of government started after parliamentary elections on 14 April led by Social Democratic Party (SDP) as the largest party. After collecting answers from all parties in parliament SDP chairperson Antti Rinne made the decision that five parties - SDP, liberal Centre, Greens, Left Alliance and liberal Swedish People’s Party - could form a best coalition.
% of Votes
Social Democratic Party
National Coalition Party
Swedish People's Party
The right-wing Coalition party and the Finns party as well as a small Christian-Democratic party remained in opposition. The chairperson of the Centre party, Juha Sipilä, the former prime minister of the centre-right government, announced that he will resign and new party chairperson will be elected in extraordinary party congress in September. Sipilä decided not stay in government and will not take even the position of Speaker of the parliament but will remain only as an ordinary MP.
The new government will have 19 ministers, seven from SDP, five from Centre, three from Greens and two from both Left Alliance and Swedish People’s Party. 11 of ministers are women and 8 are men. Regarding the important ministers SDP will get prime minister, but also Minister of Local Government and Ownership Steering and Minister of Transport and Communications. Greens got Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Interior, who will be the forthcoming party chairperson, a leftist green Maria Ohisalo, who has made PhD dissertation on poverty. Centre will get ministers of finance and economic affairs among others and the main Swedish People’s party minister is Minister of Justice who is the party chairperson Anna-Maja Henriksson.
Left Alliance got the Minister of Social Services and Health and the Minister of Education (however, without science, e.g. universities). Last time when Left Alliance has been in government (2011-2014) the ministers were Transport and Culture (including sport), which were less significant.
The new minister of education will be party chairperson Li Andersson and the post of Minister of Social Services and Health is divided that first two years the minister will be Aino-Kaisa Pekonen from Southern Finnish town of Riihimäki, a nurse by education and profession, MP since 2011, and second two years the minister will be Hanna Sarkkinen, from Northern Finnish city of Oulu, MP since 2015. All three Left Alliance ministers are women. The main reason for dividing the minister post to two persons was regional balance: usually one of the ministers of Left Alliance has been from Northern Finland.
Graph: Ministers on value map on Left – Right and Conservative – Liberal scale. The values are defined on the basis of candidate responses on voter advice application of the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper. Grey points: former centre-right government, black points: new government. Three ministers of former government missing. Source: Helsingin Sanomat 6.6.2019.
The programme of the new government is the longest so far, 190 pages in total. All the parties in government reported that their key demands were included in the programme but lot of issues were mentioned not as concrete tasks but as aims or issues to be explored and aimed for. However, the programme of the new government has received many positive comments and it is clearly the most left-wing government programme in few decades. The environmental agenda is perhaps the most ambitious climate plan globally, aiming for carbon neutrality by 2035. The key issues for Left Alliance were also that the social and health care will be realised mostly by public companies and that health care privatisation will be stopped while the funding will be increased. In addition, the government plans to hire more doctors to public health care and to ensure that people do not have to wait for non-urgent health care for more than seven days and provide free contraceptives to all under 25-year-olds. The programme proposes also a 50-euro increase for persons with pension less than 1,000 euros over a period of four year.
Finland will remain militarily non-aligned and the export of military materials to countries participating in military conflicts will not be allowed, terminate the contentious ‘activation model’ (cuts on subsidies for unemployed persons who have not shown activity in finding a job) and increase the funding of culture, youth and development aid.
The new government will increase spending by 1.23 billion euros, raise taxes to create 730 million euros in revenue, raise the school-leaving age by a year to 18, provide upper secondary school materials free for students and raise the annual refugee quota to at least 850 (now 750). What is legally considered as rape will be re-defined to be based on lack of consent. Government will also increase the number of police officers by 300 and the punishments for serious sex and violent offences – especially against children – will be toughened, while it will explore the possibility to facilitate family reunifications of refugees, which was toughened during the former government.
The government will raise taxes on fossil fuels (250 million euros), tobacco (200 million), alcohol (50 million) and sugar and to reduce income tax by 200 million euros. The expenditure policy of the government is based on the target to increase the share of employed persons in age groups from 16 to 64 from current 72.4% to 75%. The objective of the government is to make sure the public economy will be in balance in normal global economic conditions and public debt as a proportion of gross domestic product is declining in 2023. However, if the significant economic difficulties arise, the government has agreed to increase public spending in order to reduce negative effects.
From Left Alliance point of view the problematic issues include that Finland will renew the current 64 military airplanes and sell state-owned shares in companies by 3 billion euros. Moreover, there will not be major improvement in animal welfare, and the use of peat as an energy source will be continued although the government aims to stop the use of coal in 2029. Both Greens and Left Alliance oppose fur farms but they were not mentioned in the programme.
The programme includes many issues to be investigated before final decision. This leaves much scope to ministers who may decide which issues are those to be investigated first. One of the first conflict issues between Greens and Centre party (on the implementation of all the planned pulp mill investment projects) already became public.
Please find the government programme in English here (full text);