In Search of Lost Consensus: Finnish Politics Four Years after the “jytky”

Saara Inkinen, Research Fellow of the Research Unit Democracy and Democratization

In a recent interview with the Financial Times, the ceding Prime Minister Alexander Stubb was asked to reflect upon his time in office with an eye to the upcoming Finnish parliamentary elections on April 19. His response was as short as it was poignant: his premiership had been a “traumatic experience”.[i] Looking back on the four years that have passed since the last parliamentary elections in 2011, it is not difficult to see what prompted Stubb to make this statement. Finnish politics has traditionally been guided by the principle of consensus, which has allowed political elites across the left-right spectrum to reach pragmatic compromises on core societal issues. Yet the past parliamentary term has been anything but consensual. Not only has the coalition government been torn by internal disagreements almost since the day of its inception; it has also proven incapable of taking much-needed political action to combat a shrinking economy, rising unemployment rates and a state budget deficit that is predicted to swell to 124 billion Euros in the coming years. In short, Stubb’s cabinet is at real risk to go down in history as one of the worst governments the country has ever had.