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FM survives no-confidence motion

22 Sep 2018, 00:06 ( 8 Months ago)

DF-Xinhua Report
Foreign Minister Timo Soini. Photo Finnish government by Sakari Piippo.

Foreign Minister Timo Soini survived a no-confidence motion on Friday, as half of the 200 lawmakers voted in favor of him, 60 against, 18 blank and 21 were either absent or did not cast their ballots.

The motion was put forward by the main opposition party in the parliament Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue (Social Democratic Party of Finland-SDP), who were joined by members of the Vihreä Liitto (Green League), Vasemmistoliito (Left Alliance) and Ruotsalainenkansanpuolue (Swedish People's Party) in the voting. 

They accused Soini of publicly expressing his anti-abortion attitude blurring the international image of Finland.

Immediately after the voting, Suomen Keskusta (Centre Party of Finland) leader and Prime Minister Juha Sipilä underlined that it was not a value vote about abortion or about the rights of women and girls, but about the continued support for the government.

Sipilä told local media on Friday that Soini, in a private meeting, had pledged that he would take the process into account and consider his future behavior more carefully.

Soini himself refrained from confirming it but only said he "never comments on private conversations". In the parliamentary debate on Thursday Soini had shown defiance. 

The presenter of the no-confidence motion, SDP lawmaker Maarit Feld-Ranta, said on Friday she would have canceled the motion at the last moment if Soini had publicly pledged for a change in his behavior, but he had not.

The effort to garner support for Soini had resulted in tense debates in the caucus meetings of the Keskusta and the Kansallinen Kokoomus (National Coalition Party-NCP), the two big ruling parties. But at the end, there was public dissent in the Kokoomus.  

Three female MPs of the Kokoomus, Jaana Pelkonen, Saara-Sofia Siren and Lenita Toivakka defied the demand of the party group and did not participate in the vote even though they were present.
They said they could not give their support to Soini even though they wanted the cabinet to continue. Toivakka is a former cabinet minister. A fourth conservative female was not present.

Kokoomus chairman Petteri Orpo said on Friday he accepts the behavior of the female MPs. On Thursday afternoon Orpo had insisted on unanimity. Observers noted the softened attitude by Orpo towards the dissenters reflected the internal situation of the cabinet.

Soini currently represents the populist Sininen Tulevaisuus (Blue Reform)  party, a break-away fraction from the populist Perussuomalaiset (Finns Party).