Sunday, 5 June 2011
Wot? No Government?
Problem? What problem?
Now, I have to be honest here: I know very little about the Finnish political system or Finnish politics. But it does strike me as odd that a country should have such difficulty getting a government.
In May 2010, the UK had a general election that resulted in a hung Parliament, for only the second time since 1929. Following that election, it took ages to form a coalition government – a whole 6 days! It really would be unthinkable in the UK to be without a new government for weeks!
The peculiar Finnish situation arises, in the first instance, because Finland operates a form of proportional representation in its parliamentary elections. This means that elections result in multiple parties getting into parliament, with no party obtaining an absolute majority. Consequently, Finnish governments are always coalitions.
However proportional systems work in many countries, and indeed has worked in the past in Finland also. So where's the problem this time?
The answer, it seems, is Perussuomalaiset (True Finns). This populist and nationalist party has thrown a spanner in the works by winning nearly 20% of the votes in the elections. Their unwillingness to compromise on some of their radical policies mean that they have excluded themselves from the goverment negotiations. As a result, “mainstream” parties from traditionally opposing sides are now trying to form a government together. Hence the delay it seems.
This would remain a local Finnish problem if it wasn't for the key role Finland plays in a potential bailout of the southern European economies, most notably Portugal. Finland is one of the 6 Eurozone countries with a top (triple-A) credit rating, which allows the EU to borrow money cheaply to help out other economies. Finland is also the only Eurozone country that requires parliamentary approval for such bailouts. The Perussuomalaiset party have made it clear they will vote against any bailout (their success in the elections is in part a result of public resentment of earlier bailouts).
All this does not really seem to phase the Finns or their politicians. On June 1st, foreign minister Alexander Stubb tweeted: “New dynamic in government negotiations. Socialists and the Left Alliance walk out. Politics is an intersting [sic] trade. Right?”
I have been wondering though: what about the current ministers? Presumably, quite few of them will lose their job when the new government is eventually formed. How motivated must they be right now? Imagine being told you are being made redundant: how much effort would you put into your job? Could politicians be different? Would they have so much integrity that they would keep working hard?
Mmmm, politicians, integrity?
Posted by Telefinn at 08:47