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Policy Brief written by Juhana Harju
Partner at Eurofacts Oy, Public Affairs, PR, and Communications

Poll numbers released on Friday, March 29 came as a wakeup call for Finland’s political parties. They’ve been ramping up their campaigns to be ready for the early voting period that begins today, April 3, and lasts until Tuesday, April 9. Election day is Sunday, April 14.

Polls indicated that the Finns Party, a party seen as a difficult partner because of their views on issues such as immigration, were third in popularity, just behind the National Coalition Party. It seems that even the Social Democrats – still in first position – have declined in the polls by 1.2 percent since the previous poll (conducted in February by market research company Taloustutkimus).

This information coupled with background talks with major parliamentary party strategists suggests that the backbone of our next government could be formed by the Social Democrats, together with the Centre Party and The Greens. This would leave the door open for smaller parties to help form a majority government. The Finns Party’s rising popularity could lead to a delicate political situation, as other parties try to find common ground to reach at the least 101 MP’s.

So, when the new government gathers for their first picture together, the leading party could face a so-called ‘winner’s dilemma.’ After an arduous campaign and years in the opposition, the major governing party must assume the heavy demands of coalition partners, especially from smaller ones. This is key for political predictability – What is defined as negotiable and non-negotiable once the program is being put together?

The political government program as a strategic document could be detailed, filtering larger, mutually agreed on important issues into smaller concessions for a single coalition party.

The two most pressing issues for the next government are public financial stability and climate change. The first will need many remedies, the most important one being tackling the employment rate, which directly affects tax revenues and eases the burden laid on social security and public services.

On the other hand, climate change is an issue of a global scale, but the need to act now has also been acknowledged by many of our most prominent politicians. Based on this, new legislation and taxation will follow.

Education, R&D funding and labor market policy are also important issues for the next government. It’s worth keeping the following in mind:

  • Will flexibility of the labor market increase, or will upcoming labor market negotiations (from fall 2019 to spring 2020) derail that process?
  • What will happen to the question of easing access to foreign labor?

Given these issues, what are some actions that companies can take now?

First, they should position themselves as partners, helping the new government with the tools at their disposal. All news about investments, increased R&D spending or expanding the workforce will shine positive light towards companies and their commitment to have operations in Finland.

Of course, this is a two-way street. Partner companies with a positive societal impact and ability to communicate that effectively will reap benefits throughout the next four years of change.

Beginning on July 1 through the end of the year, Finland will chair the EU presidency for the third time. A lot has happened in and to the union since the last time we presided in 2006.

Are we going to  have a new and functioning government by that day? To successfully launch the presidency, the government and its political program should be ready by the end of June at the latest. The parties know that, and they will be keen to clear all foundational political hurdles by that time. Only time will tell if this can be achieved.

Juhana Harju
Partner at Eurofacts Oy, Public Affairs, PR, and Communications


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Amcham Finland or its members.