HELSINKI (AP) — Finland's next likely prime minister, Center Party leader Juha Sipila, said Thursday he wants the populist Finns Party in a new three-member ruling coalition, the first time it would be in the government.
Sipila, who was tasked with forming a majority government after his party's election victory last month, said he will begin talks with the runner-up Finns Party and the conservative National Coalition Party, which led the previous government but came in third in the April 17 vote.
The main task of a new government is to revive the ailing economy in the midst of a three-year recession, with painful decisions needed for further spending cuts of at least 4 billion euros, the 54-year-old millionaire said.
Sipila described the three-party coalition, which would have a clear majority with 124 seats in the 200-member Parliament, as the "best option" of many alternatives. He said he wants a strong coalition capable "of making reforms and implementing those decisions."
The self-effacing former businessman, who entered politics four years ago, faces a delicate balancing act between staunchly pro-European former Prime Minister Alexander Stubb's conservatives and the anti-establishment Finns Party. The latter is led by maverick politician Timo Soini, who opposes bailing out Greece and wants to kick it out of the eurozone. He also wants restrictions on immigration.
Soini, who dropped out of government formation talks four years ago because of his party's opposition to bailouts, said he was confident the three parties could form a new government, but it was not immediately clear if he would be prepared to make any compromises.
Sipila said he will begin coalition talks on Friday, hoping to announce a new government by the end of the month.