(Helsinki) Two weeks after his victory in the general elections in Finland, center-right leader Petteri Orpo was officially tasked on Friday with forming a majority and a government of which he is to become prime minister.
The parties eligible to enter the governing alliance should be announced around May 1, the leader of the National Coalition party explained at a press conference.
Mr Orpo, who defeated Social Democrat incumbent Sanna Marin on April 2, was “unanimously chosen to lead the negotiations”, announced the chairman of the right-wing party’s parliamentary group, Kai Mykkänen.
The centre-right leader, who is due to become prime minister at 53 after seven years at the helm of his party, gave no indication of which side he wanted to ally himself with.
Two main hypotheses present themselves to him: either to form a majority towards the center left with the social democrats, or to ally with the extreme right of the party of the Finns.
“After the elections I was in contact with the parties on an almost equal basis. I didn’t rush either,” Orpo told reporters.
A series of 24 questions were sent to different parties in parliament with a response requested by midday Tuesday, he said.
The Social Democrats “have no problem answering these questions”, Ms Marin pointed out, while the leader of the Finns party described the questionnaire as “very varied”.
Bilateral negotiations will then take place on April 24 and 25, according to Orpo.
The Finnish right has ruled with both the left and nationalists in the past, although the Party of Finns has hardened its anti-immigration line in recent years.
“We should then have an idea on what basis to start the real governmental negotiations,” Mr. Orpo stressed.
The latter had campaigned on public finances and the economy to unbolt Sanna Marin, 37, popular, but divisive.
The latter announced last week that she intended to withdraw from political life and become a simple deputy by leaving the head of the Social Democrats in September.
Ms Marin, who is acting in the interim ahead of Mr Orpo’s expected start, also brushed aside speculation of an international or European post.
In the very close ballot on April 2, the National Coalition came out on top with 48 seats and 20.8% of the vote, ahead of the Finns party (46 seats and 20.1%) and the Social Democrats (43 seats and 19.9%).
The post of Prime Minister traditionally goes to the party that comes out on top in the ballot.
During his campaign, Mr. Orpo notably criticized Mrs. Marin on the increase in public debt during her mandate and proposed a savings plan of six billion euros.
Despite this increase, Finland remains much less indebted than many other European countries, with the equivalent of 73% of its GDP, and is unofficially part of the club of European “frugals”, champions of serious budgeting.