Matti Vanhanen and his Centre Party have clung on to power in Finland but yesterday’s elections provided a swing to the right. Vanhanen will remain Prime Minister and gets to choose who to invite into a ruling coalition. But with a margin of just one seat, he admits his party has lost some clout: “No, we have lost. We’ve lost power and seats. So, it’s not at all a victory. But for the Centre Party it’s always been very difficult to call elections as the leading government party.”
With 51 seats out of 200, the Centre Party survived a late surge from the centre-right Kokoomus party. After four years in opposition, Kokoomus will now hope to replace the Social Democrats in Vanhanen’s new coalition. Their leader Jyrki Katainen, aged just 35, was delighted with the result despite missing out on first place: “We had an extremely positive campaign. We were not against anybody but our campaign was extremely positive and of course others were disappointed with the previous government and they wanted to support our values.”
With less cause to celebrate were the centre-left Social Democrats of Eero Heinaluoma. They lost eight seats and risk being demoted to the opposition after over a decade in government alliances. Vanhanen is still to confirm if, and how, he intends to realign the coalition, although he concedes negotiations will be tough.