Elections in Finland

March 20, 2007

The Kokoomus (Coalition, the conservative party) seems to have nailed exactly 50 seats in the Eduskunta (parliament), just one seat short of the Centre Party and well ahead of the Social Democrats, who with a mere 45 are being tagged as the big losers of the day.

The outcome will probably be a coalition of the two now-leading parties, who (unusually for Finland) have an absolute majority of 101 between them. They’ll probably include the Swedes of course, and maybe another small party; possibly even go for a grand coalition with the SDP.

For many years after the Second World War – on into the 80’s I think – there was a pattern in which the SDP, the Center (formerly Agrarians) and the Left (a communist-front alliance) each had about a quarter of the seats every time and Kokoomus was in fourth place with about an eighth. With the end of the cold war the dynamic shifted, the Left dropped into fourth and Kokoomus took its place in the Big Three. But the numerical shares remained the same, only with those two parties swapping theirs.

There was something called the Finnish People’s Party too, but it merged with the Agrarians probably about the time it changed its name to Centre.

Also in the olden days actual governments rarely lasted very long; coalitions were inherently unstable because the Left and Kokoomus were both largely unacceptable as partners, requiring the SDP and Agrarians/Centre to depend on a lot of small grouplets. With the cold war over there are few real differences between the parties, it is easier to build coalitions across the whole spectrum, and so it is normal now for a PM and Cabinet to serve for a whole parliamentary term or longer.

UPDATE: I just ran into this thorough analysis of the situation.

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