April 19, 2018 / 2:07 PM / 7 months ago

Lawmaker quits Finnish ruling party, putting reform bills at risk of failure

HELSINKI, April 19 (Reuters) - A lawmaker quit Finland’s co-ruling party on Thursday saying he opposed major planned health and local government reforms, increasing the risk that parliament will fail to pass the measures in votes due in June.

Following the departure of Harry Harkimo, a former member of National Coalition Party (NCP), the centre-right government controls just 105 seats in the 200-member parliament.

That includes the speaker of parliament, who is not allowed to vote, another lawmaker opposed to the reforms and several others who have yet to take a clear stance on them.

The reforms, expected to save 3 billion euros ($3.7 billion) in state spending, are a cornerstone of the three-party coalition’s plan to balance public finances, strained by the costs of a fast-ageing population.

“It is fair to resign now, there are many things that I don’t agree on (with the NCP),” Harkimo told reporters.

“I haven’t decided yet how I will vote (on the reforms), but if I had to vote now, I would vote against them.”

He did not say whether he would join another parliamentary group.

The reform bill plans to boost competition between public and private healthcare providers by opening up more opportunities for the private sector. It also plans to establish 18 new healthcare regions, taking over the provision of services from more than 300 local government bodies at present.

Prime Minister Juha Sipila said last month he would dissolve the government if it failed to push through the reforms.

Finland’s next general election is scheduled for April 2019. ($1 = 0.8081 euros) (Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; editing by Andrew Roche)

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