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Finland’s Katainen Wins First Confidence Motion in Parliament

Finland’s Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen won his administration’s first confidence vote after the opposition used the motion to try to block municipal reform.

Lawmakers voted 108 to 66 to back the cabinet. None abstained and 25 were absent. The opposition Center Party filed the motion on Sept. 16, protesting the government’s plans to merge municipalities. Katainen’s six-party coalition had proposed the measure in an effort to shore up public finances as Finland adapts its budget to Europe’s fastest-aging population.

No confidence motions in Finland are a commonly used tool in parliament to try to block government policies. Opposition parties proposed 13 motions to overturn the previous government during the last parliamentary term from 2007 to 2011.

“Municipal reform is necessary to save the welfare society,” the Minister for Local Government, Henna Virkkunen, told lawmakers on Sept. 28. “It’s important to speed up the change.”

Finland’s budget will be in deficit for a third consecutive year after an 8.2 percent economic slump in 2009 depleted tax revenue and swelled spending on benefits. Finland’s government wants to merge municipalities by 2015 to create larger, more efficient units.

The Nordic country has 320 municipalities, of which one fifth are net payers and 80 percent receive government funding to operate basic social services, such as health care and schools, according to the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kati Pohjanpalo in Helsinki at kpohjanpalo@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tasneem Brogger at tbrogger@bloomberg.net

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