Finland’s centre-right government has collapsed one month before parliamentary elections after the failure of a reform of its health and social care systems that has been in the works for more than a decade.
Prime minister Juha Sipila said on Friday morning that he would resign later in the day ahead of elections set for April 14 in which the opposition Social Democrats are set for big gains according to opinion polls.
President Sauli Niinistö accepted the resignation and asked Mr Sipila’s government to continue in office until the elections.
“This is an enormous disappointment to me. I take responsibility for the failure.” But he insisted that Finland “needs a reform”, indicating the issue is likely to play a large role in elections and the next government’s mandate.
Finland has one of the most rapidly ageing populations in the world and has been discussing reforms of its healthcare system for decades but passing any meaningful measures has proved politically all but impossible.
The latest reform failed due to an attempt to couple local government reform to it, with the government unable to overcome constitutional objections to the changes.
“Big reforms are hard, also in Finland.
The social and healthcare reform, which several governments have tried to implement, will collapse today, and will be moved to the next government.
This reform is crucial to the sustainability of public finances,” Jan von Gerich, chief analyst at Nordea, wrote on Twitter.
The latest polls give the Social Democrats about 21 per cent, Mr Sipila’s Centre party 14 per cent, and the governing centre-right National Coalition party 17 per cent.
The populist True Finns, who were in government before splitting from their former ministers who founded a new party, have staged a recovery in recent months to 12 per cent, still below the 18 per cent they recorded in 2015.