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Finland

 
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Finland

The Parliamentary Election of 1987

The March 1987 elections moved the country somewhat to the right. It was uncertain how far, because the voter participation rate--at a comparatively low 75 percent, 5 percent lower than usual--hurt the left more than the right and had a varying impact. The KOK, for example, increased its percentage of the votes by only 1 percent and saw a tiny increase in absolute terms, yet it gained nine seats in the Eduskunta and almost caught up with the chamber's largest party, the SDP. The socialists' take dropped by 2.6 percent, with 100,000 fewer votes, yet they lost only one seat in the Eduskunta because of the way their votes were distributed across the country. Kesk garnered the same portion of the vote that it had in 1983, but it achieved a small increase in the actual number of votes and gained two new seats. The Greens, who had registered a significant gain in the communal elections of October 1984, got only two new representatives, far fewer than expected, for a total of four. The SKDL, electoral vehicle of the reformist SKP, lost a seat, while DEVA, controlled by the Stalinist Committee of SKP Organizations, lost six of the ten seats it had controlled since its representatives were expelled from the SKDL in June 1986. Weakened perhaps from its membership in the long-lived government, the SMP lost more than one-third of its support and almost half of its seats. Two of the small centrist parties did well: the SFP gained another seat, just as it had in 1983, and the SKL secured two more for a total of five.

Faced with these inconclusive results, negotiations about the shape of the new government got underway. After six weeks of talks and attempts to put together a completely nonsocialist government, a pathbreaking combination was formed that included conservatives and socialists in the Council of State, joined by the dependable and successful SFP and the battered and desperate SMP.

The new government, consisting of nine centrist and conservative and eight socialist ministers and headed by the KOK's Harri Holkeri, surprised some observers because a nonsocialist government was possible and seemed appropriate given the election results. The outcome angered others, who contended that Koivisto had misused presidential powers when he brokered a government that had his former party as a member despite its considerable electoral losses. Koivisto countered that he had behaved properly and had let the parties themselves argue out a workable combination.

One explanation for the unusual government was that animosity against the Kesk leader, Vayrynen, was so common in both the SDP and the KOK that neither party was willing to form a government with him. Thus, Kesk was deprived of its traditional "hinge" role. Another consideration was that the SDP and the KOK were not so much at odds with each another as socialist and conservative parties elsewhere might have been. Both parties had moved toward the center, and they were in agreement about most issues, especially about the need to reduce the agricultural subsidies that had always been defended by Kesk. The resulting "red-blue" government had as program objective the preservation of the social welfare system, the improvement of Finland's competitive position in international trade, a fundamental reform of the tax system, and adherence to the Paasikivi-Kekkonen Line in foreign affairs. The SFP fit in easily with this program. The formerly rightist, but now moderate, SMP was included because it strengthened the government slightly and because it was likely to be dependable, because it had no other place to go. Koivisto informed the new government that it would not have to resign after the presidential election of 1988, and observers expected the cabinet to serve its full term until the 1991 parliamentary elections.

Data as of December 1988

Finland - TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • Government and Politics

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