May 4, 2015 / 9:19 AM / 3 years ago

Finland's likely next PM seeks deal with euro-skeptical The Finns

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland’s likely next prime minister, Juha Sipila, said on Monday his Center Party will make a special effort to find common ground with The Finns party, which wants a rebate on European Union payments and tighter restrictions on immigration, as he tries to put together a governing coalition.

Center Party Chairman Juha Sipila gives a speech at the party's election celebrations in Oulu April 20, 2015. REUTERS/Markku Ruottinen/Lehtikuva

Sipila, whose party won an April 19 parliamentary election with 21.1 percent of vote, said while he had several possibilities for putting together a coalition government, he had formed a team to work on difficult questions with The Finns, the second-biggest group.

“I think the election result requires us to thoroughly investigate whether we can find an understanding that could work as a basis for the government program negotiations,” Sipila told reporters in the parliament.

The Finns, formerly known as True Finns, scored fewer votes than Alexander Stubb’s center-right National Coalition party, but regional rules gave it one more seat in the new parliament.

Sipila said he was seeking a coalition with a parliamentary majority, meaning it should include at least three parties, and that he would announce his plans on Thursday.

“It looks like the Center Party is very keen to have the Finns in the government,” said Erkka Railo, political analyst at University of Turku.

“It’s difficult to go around The Finns from the right or the left, and Sipila must see this... The Finns hold many aces up their sleeve and they have taken a surprisingly hard line in the talks.”   

Sipila said there was work to do with The Finns on several issues including spending cuts, immigration and the EU. The Finns promote less austerity than Center party and call for cutting Finland’s refugee quota as well as EU payments.

The Finns leader Timo Soini, however, told reporters he was open to some compromises.

Soini spooked financial markets in 2011 with his anti-bailout rhetorics, but coming into this election he toned down his demands and has not ruled out more funds for Greece.

Finland has suffered three years of recession because of the downfall of Nokia’s phone business and a slowdown in Europe and Russia. The outgoing left-right government failed to curb debt growth or step up reforms.

Sipila noted that Finland needs to cut spending by about 6 billion euros, and 4 billion more should be saved in the long term to fight rising costs caused by an ageing population.

(This story was refiled to remove superfluous word in second paragraph.)

Reporting By Jussi Rosendahl and Anna Ercanbrack

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