Finland’s election winner seeks to govern with anti-immigration party

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HELSINKI, April 27 (Reuters) – Finland’s conservative National Coalition, winner of this year’s parliamentary election, said on Thursday it hopes to form a majority government together with the anti-immigration Finns Party and two smaller groups.

The four parties will negotiate under the leadership of National Coalition Party (NCP) head Petteri Orpo, a fiscal conservative who is widely expected to replace left-wing leader Sanna Marin as Finland’s next prime minister.

“We really have big challenges ahead, we have to make difficult decisions, we have to make savings, we have to make reforms but I think they can be done and with this combination I think we can do it,” Orpo told a news conference.

The NCP won 48 seats in the April 2 election, ahead of the Finns with 46, while Marin’s Social Democrats came third with 43 elected members of the 200-seat parliament.

In addition to the NCP and the Finns, Orpo also aims to include the Swedish People’s Party, which holds nine seats, and the Christian Democrats with five, bringing the total potential support to 108.

But before he can take office, Orpo must find common ground with the nationalist and eurosceptic Finns Party and its leader Riikka Purra, most notably on the contentious issue of immigration and asylum seekers.

While Purra has said her party would like to curb both humanitarian and work-based immigration from outside of Europe, Orpo has suggested he is ready to review asylum policy but wants to continue to welcome skilled workers to Finland.

If the talks fail, Orpo can still attempt to negotiate with other parties.

Photo: Leader of the Finns Party, Riikka Purra . EPA-EFE/JARNO KUUSINEN

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