Govt survives no-confidence motion on elderly care

08 Feb 2019, 20:58

  DF-Xinhua Report

File Photo Hanne Salonen / Eduskunta.

The center-right Finnish government under Prime Minister Juha Sipilä won a vote of confidence in parliament on Friday, but senior care scare leaves a bad sore on the Finnish political scene.

The vote 98-88 reflected the government majority in parliament, while 12 MPs were absent.

The whole opposition had demanded a vote of non-confidence following revelations about conditions in senior care facilities.

During the week, government parties said they would no longer oppose setting legally binding minimum levels of nursing staff. The government would also submit a supplementary budget later this month to increase funding for administrative control of nursing homes.

With general election only two months away, the nursing debate impacted the polls on political party support.

While the main opposition Suomen sosialidemokraattinen puolue (Social Democratic Party of Finland-SDP)  and the Kansallinen Kokoomus (National Coalition Party-NCP) had been almost even in early January at slightly above 20 percent, the Kokoomus fell down to 17 percent in a poll published by the national broadcaster Yle on Thursday.

Commenting on the situation, a Finnish language business daily Kauppalehti noted in its editorial on Friday that the " Kokoomus  pay now a high price for their close connection with the private health and nursing business".

The party has been actively supporting the entry of commercial health companies into publicly financed health care service production. Several conservative politicians have moved in recent years to positions in the commercial health care companies.

WAVES OF ELECTION THEMES

The senior care debate is the third wave in the parliamentary election themes. At the turn of the year the nation was shocked by the news about sexual violence by men with asylum seeker background in Oulu and Helsinki.

This was reflected in an increase in the support for the anti-immigration Perussuomalaiset (Finns Party) in the polls in mid-January. The rising trend of the populists continued this week as they had reached 12 percent in the Yle poll.

Earlier in the autumn, the elections were presumed to be dominated by climate issues. All parties, except the populist Finns Party, agreed on plans to combat the climate change even beyond the upcoming parliamentary period.

Labor legislation has remained an underlying theme throughout the nearly four years of the center-right coalition.

The opposition and the unions have criticized efforts by the government to ease the business scene through more flexible labor legislation.

The Suomen Keskusta (Centre Party) of the incumbent prime minister Juha Sipilä had declined further to 15.6 percent this week. Local observers do not believe it would be able to recover enough to contend about continuing as the largest party.

 The Kokoomus  though said this week they had "just mismanaged their publicity" in the senior care and would recover.

The poll-leading Social Democrats face an uncertainty factor due to the sick leave of party leader Antti Rinne, who has been hospitalized since falling ill on a vacation in Spain at the start of the year.

Rinne has pledged he will return to campaigning in March. Rinne and Kokoomus chairman Petteri Orpo are the perceived leading contenders to be the prime minister.

The Vihreä Liitö (Green League) is the fourth in the polls, now at 14 percent, between the Keskusta  and the populist Perussuomalaiset.

Local observers say the Vihreät have benefited from the climate debate and the return of Pekka Haavisto as their temporary chairman. Haavisto was the leading contender against President Sauli Niinistö in presidential elections in 2012 and 2018. His support in those elections exceeded the Green voter base.