Finland’s conservative party picks ministers for right-wing coalition government

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Finland’s conservative National Coalition Party, the winner of April’s general election, on Sunday unveiled its picks for key Cabinet posts in the upcoming government that observers say will be the most right-wing in the Nordic country’s recent history.

Following lengthy talks over seven weeks, NCP announced Friday a deal with three other parties for a governing coalition that includes the far-right, eurosceptic Finns Party, which runs largely on a nationalist and anti-immigration agenda.

There will be a total of 19 ministerial posts in the new Cabinet, including prime minister-designate and NCP leader Petteri Orpo. The 53-year veteran politician is a former finance and interior minister among other posts and has been heading NCP, Finland’s main conservative party, since 2016.

NCP is set to get eight ministerial portfolios in total.

The party’s vice chair Elina Valtonen, who is the also the vice chair of the parliament’s foreign affairs committee, is set to become foreign minister.

The 41-year-old will be Finland’s second female top diplomat after Tarja Halonen, who served in the late 1990s before she was elected Finland’s first female president in 2000.

NCP will also get the key defense portfolio that is to be held by Antti Häkkänen, also NCP vice chair. His defense minister post carries a strong weight as Finland became NATO’s 31st member in April, and the country of 5.5 million is in the process of integrating its military systems into the alliance.

Under the deal, the populist Finns Party – runner-up in the parliamentary election – is set to get seven ministerial posts including the important finance minister portfolio, to be held by party leader Riikka Purra, and the interior and justice minister portfolios.

The new government’s two junior partners – the Christian Democrats and the Swedish People’s Party of Finland – will share the rest of the Cabinet posts.

The four parties will hold a comfortable majority of 108 seats at the 200-strong Finnish legislature, Eduskunta.

Political analysts have described the new Cabinet as Finland’s most right-wing government since World War II. Under a government program unveiled on Friday, Orpo’s Cabinet is set to carry out major social policy and labor reforms, and budget cuts in the next four years.

It seeks to substantially decrease Finland’s government debt and is taking a hard line stance to immigration including tightening requirements for receiving Finnish citizenship.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö is expected to appoint Orpo and his Cabinet by Wednesday after a confidence vote on the prime minister-designate by lawmakers.

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