Finnish centre-left parties agree to form government

Helsinki (AFP) –


Five of Finland's centre-left parties have reached a coalition agreement following April elections, and could be officially appointed to government next week, the incoming Social Democrat prime minister Antti Rinne said on Friday.

Rinne led his party to a razor-thin victory in last month's general election, holding off the far-right Finns Party which surged into second place on an anti-immigration agenda.

However Rinne, a 56-year-old former trade union boss who was known for his fiery negotiating skills, opted to go into coalition with the Centre Party of outgoing Prime Minister Juha Sipila.

The parties, along with the Green party, Left Alliance and Swedish People's Party, a centrist group which represents Finland's Swedish-speaking minority, have been hammering out a detailed list of their forthcoming policies, known as the government programme, to be published on Monday.

"The content is ready, and now over the weekend we'll check some of the wording of the text and some of the economic figures, but the government programme is in the bag," Rinne told reporters on Friday.

"If everything goes as we imagine, (the government will be officially appointed) at the end of next week," Rinne said.

The centre-left coalition would give Rinne a majority of 117 in Finland's 200-seat parliament, the Eduskunta.

The new coalition will unveil its policy document on Monday, though Finnish media has reported that the government will promise 1.2 billion euros more public spending, of which 700 million euros will be funded by higher taxes.

Rinne's Social Democrats have bitterly opposed the spending cuts brought in by the previous centre-right government during the last four years, as well as attempts to introduce more flexibility into Finland's labour laws.

Critics have been sceptical over whether Rinne's administration will be able to tackle Finland?s long-standing unemployment problem and fulfil their election pledge to increase the jobs rate to from 72 to 75 percent.

They have also warned against increasing public spending when Finland is expected to face an economic downturn in the near future.

However, on Friday Rinne defended his forthcoming government's spending plans.

"I?ve said from the beginning that our figures are based on the finance ministry?s official outlook on what is happening in the world, in Europe and in Finland, and that is what we have done here too -- the changing situation has been taken into account," Rinne said.

The Social Democrats will head a government for the first time in 16 years, though the party has been a junior coalition member since then.