For the first time since 2002, when it left coalition government over the Finnish parliament’s decision to approve construction of a new nuclear power plant, Vihre‰t-De Grˆna (the Greens) is back in coalition government.
After receiving 8.5 percent of the vote in the March 18 General Elections and increasing the number of seats from 14 to 15 in the 200-member Finnish parliament, Vihre‰t entered into negotiations to form a new government together with the Centre Party, (51 seats), the right-wing National Coalition Party (50 seats), and the Swedish People’s Party (9 seats).
Such a potential coalition, based primarily upon the Centre and National Coalition parties, became the natural base for forming the government after the Social Democratic Party lost heavily in the March elections, falling from 53 to 45 seats. But this placed the Greens in a new situation, because from 1995 to 2002 – when Vihre‰t was part of the government in a five-party coalition – the government contained both right-wing and left-wing parties. Now there were only right-wing.
But that didn’t stop Vihre‰t from pursuing negotiations to form a government, because during the election they said that the parties in the government are not the main issue, but rather what issues are contained in the government’s program.
During its General Election campaign, Vihre‰t’s manifesto defined ‘Green’ as standing for “courage, responsibility and justice. The party’s main issues were ‘supporting the poorest in society and families’, including through advocating a guaranteed basic income, as well as addressing climate change through promoting sustainable energy use through conservation and renewable sources.
Entering negotiations Vihre‰t had five main goals: Vihre‰t would be allowed to oppose nuclear power in the government and in parliament; there would be a move towards establishing a basic income, implemented through the Social Security program; ecological taxes would begin; that no environmental legislation would be weakened; and the two highly controversial and environmentally destructive Kollaja and Vuotos dams would not be built, dams the nation’s environmental movement has been fighting for years.
Negotiations on behalf of Vihre‰t were led by party chair Tarja Cronberg, parliamentary group leader Heidi Hautala and party secretary Ari Heikkinen. After five days of difficult negotiations, Vihre‰t got agreement on its key points. Then the agreement was put to a vote of the party’s National Council as well as its parliamentary group and both groups approved it by consensus.
As part of the agreement, Vihre‰t also received two ministers in the coalition deal – both women – as Cronberg, 61, became Labor Minister and Green MP Tuija Brax, 44, Justice Minister. In addition to these ministerial posts, Green MP Oras Tynkkynen, 29, was appointed Special adviser to the Prime Minister on Climate Change.
Among the Green MPs are also Hautala and former European Green spokesperson Pekka Haavisto, who in recent years spent time with the United Nations in Afghanistan, as European Union Special Representative in Sudan, and from 1995-1999 was Finnish Minister of Environment and Development Aid.
Overall the parliamentary group contains ten women and five mean, with five members of the group under 32. Overall, Vihre‰t ran 202 candidates in the parliamentary elections, of which 107 (53 percent) were women. The average age of was 40.4 years, with the youngest 19 and the oldest 68. On the city council level, the last local elections were held in 2004 and the Greens gained 7.4 percent of the votes and 314 councillor seats. On the European level, the Greens have one member of the European Parliament, Satu Hassi.