Social Democrats Offer to Give Up Premeirship
HELSINKI, Finland (AP) _ The long-dominant Social Democratic party offered Monday to relinquish the prime minister’s post in the next coalition government because the party suffered setbacks in elections three weeks ago.
The offer came as President Mauno Koivisto summoned to his palace the representatives of the nine parties in the 200-member Eduskunta, or parliament, to formally begin building the next coalition government.
″The role of pacesetter in the government negotiations belongs now to the election winners, and the prime minister should be a competent person from the non-socialist side,″ Pertti Paasio, the Social Democratic parliamentary chairman, told reporters after meeting the president.
The announcement appeared to clear the field for conservative leader Ilkka Suominen of the National Coalition Party or Paavo Vayrynen of the Ceter Party, who is foreign minister in the outgoing government.
Although the conservatives came in second in the voting March 15-16, the party got the largest increase in seats. Finnish tradition calls for the party with the biggest gains to get the speaker’s post.
The National Coalition Party has been in opposition for 21 years and has not held a major Cabinet post in more than 40 years, largely because the neighboring Soviet Union considers it hostile.
Prime Minister Kalevi Sorsa’s four-party coalition, which governed for four years, resigned on Friday, but will continue as caretaker until a new government is formed. The coalition bargaining could take several weeks.
In the elections last month the Social Democrats, who have held the premiership since 1976, lost one of their 57 seats. They will remain the largest party in Parliament.
The conservatives gained 9 seats for a total of 53, and the centrists added two seats to the 38 they held.
The conservatives and centrists have advocated a coalition with the socialists. But Paasio said his party also was not interested in joining a coalition of ″the big three,″ because it would strip Parliament of an effective opposition.
Sorsa’s outgoing coalition included the Social Democrats, the Center Party, the Rural Party and the Swedish People’s Party.