HELSINKI, March 8 (Xinhua) — Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila submitted early Friday the resignation of his government to Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, who accepted it and demanded the ministers to continue to fulfil their duties as “care takers”.
Observers said the resignation would not make much difference as the government’s term in office was nearly over. The parliamentary election is due in mid-April.
Media reports attributed the resignation mainly to the virtual failure of a major governmental plan to reform the country’s health care system.
Originally rolled out as a health care structural reform proposed by the centrist Sipila after he assumed the job as the prime minter in mid-2015, the plan evolved into a political package in late 2015. In a deal within the ruling partners, the centrists could establish regional administrative areas, and the conservatives would see the publicly financed health care system open to private operators.
The plan then met with legal obstacles in the parliamentary committees, and time runs out as the parliament goes into recess before the upcoming election.
Analysts said on Friday that the opening-up of the system to for-profit operators was too complex to be carried out in time, and the reform could have been completed if not introducing the “freedom of choice” idea.
Marko Junkkari, political correspodent of newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, described the “staging of the day”. He noted that the Center Party is now doing everything possible to make it look like the conservative National Coalition Party is to blame.
Junkkari said the conservatives had planned that Paula Risikko, Speaker of Parliament and a politician with a conservative background, would have announced at noon that “time runs out” for processing the health reform, and that would have sent the message that the conservatives were conducting the orchestra, which would not be in the interest of the centrists. In the end, centrist leader Sipila proved quicker with his action.
BEST FOR CENTER
While the resignation of the government turned out to be the first of such case since the early 1980s, Finnish commentators have largely agreed the decision might be the best choice for the ruling Center Party at the moment.
Timo Soikkanen, a veteran political historian at Turku University, told Xinhua that through resigning the government could “camouflage” the media climate somewhat, and not be directly connected with the failures.
Matti Koivisto, an analyst with the national broadcaster Yle, said Sipila “had nothing to lose”. Although the failures of the Sipila government may not be quickly forgotten by voters, the “scorched earth” tactics were probably Sipila’s best choice.
Antti Kaikkonen, chairman of the centrist parliamentary group, described to the media that the decision by his party chairman was “hard and rough”, but “it was the only correct choice”.
The decision to resign was made following the opinion poll results revealed last Thursday. The opposition Social Deocratic Party was leading with 21.3 percent backing, 5 percentage points higher than the conservatives and 7 percentage points than the centrists.
The health care reform will be back on the agenda whatever the composition of the next government is. Due to the aging population, a reform of public health care is required.
Soikkanen told Xinhua that the emergence of the social democrats as the largest party in the election is almost inevitable. “They could choose either the centerists or the conservatives as their partner.”
CREDIT MAY SUFFER
The failure of the planned health reform could hamper the return of Finland to the top triple-A credit rating, business daily Kauppalehti commented on Friday.
One of the original aims of the reform was to reduce the public costs. The health care reform was one of the structural changes the international credit raters urged Finland to do. S&P noted last year that a failure would delay other reforms.
Jan von Greich, an analyst at Nordea Bank, told Kauppalehti that “a return to AAA is now further away”. But he did not expect any quick change to worse rating levels.
The interest rates of Finnish state loans were not affected on Friday.