Greece hijacks Finnish politics again as government faces ouster

Greece is once again being used as a cudgel in Finland as the anti-bailout party The Finns has called for a confidence vote against the government to criticize the bailouts of the Hellenic nation since 2010.

The Finns are demanding Prime Minister Alexander Stubb’s government provide answers on the country’s liabilities to Greece and whether it’s prepared for a breakup of the euro area. Stubb defended the rescues on Wednesday, saying the government worked through the crisis to save the common currency. The vote will be held at 1 p.m. in Helsinki.

Greece is once again the focal point of the European Union after the anti-austerity SYRIZA party grabbed power last month demanding an end to spending cuts. The Finnish opposition is positioning for April 19 elections with no-confidence motions intended to foment dissatisfaction against the ruling coalition.

“It’s a way for the opposition to underline — to add an exclamation mark to — certain issues,” Petri Koikkalainen, political science lecturer at the University of Lapland, said by phone. “It’s certainly part of the election battle.”

Stubb has only the smallest majority, with 101 voting lawmakers backing his coalition against 98 for the opposition. The government would likely continue in a care-taker role if it loses the vote since the election is close, Koikkalainen said.

“The time limit points strongly to a temporary option rather than trying to form a new political government,” Koikkalainen said. Collapse “would be a prestige loss for all government parties.”

Outcomes in Finnish politics are not always clear-cut ahead of time, as many parliamentary practices are based on custom instead of law, he said. Finland has no tradition of sustainable minority governments. The country was last ruled by such a coalition for eight months in 1976 to 1977.

Since taking power in June, Stubb has survived five votes gauging the parliament’s confidence. His predecessor Jyrki Katainen faced 17 motions between June 2011 and June 2014. Stubb’s National Coalition and other ruling parties lag behind opposition Center Party in polls. [Bloomberg]