Far-right party joins formal talks to form Finland's next government

The far-right Finns Party has joined official talks to form the next government in Finland, in a move that would give the Nordic nation its most right-wing government in almost 100 years.

Petteri Orpo, the leader of the National Coalition Party, Kokoomus, which won April's election, made the announcement on Thursday afternoon in Helsinki, saying he had invited the Finns Party plus the Christian Democrats and Swedish People's Party to the talks.

"I have a strong belief that with these parties we can really achieve those reforms and that even in difficult times, even in surprising situations, there is a common spirit, a common glue to solve things," Orpo told reporters.

Orpo has to have a working majority of 100 MPs to form a government, and this combination of parties would give him a narrow majority of 109 seats in the 200-seat parliament.

However, it's not going to be smooth sailing when those four parties gather around the negotiating table. There is a gulf between the Finns Party and the Swedish People's Party over EU issues in particular -- but also over international values, human rights issues, and immigration -- with Finns Party leader Riikka Purra admitting "there are still big differences."

Orpo highlighted the economy as the trickiest subject to negotiate, saying "it would not be an easy equation" to balance the policy needs of the four parties in discussions.

Negotiations will start next week, with a view to wrapping up in June, certainly before Midsummer.

However if the parties don't make sufficient progress towards agreeing a viable government programme -- Purra says her party has committed only to talks, nothing else -- then Orpo's National Coalition Party could shuffle the deck of cards and seek another 'anchor' party to be part of his government.

Another combination, perhaps the most likely being Kokoomus, Social Democrats, Greens and Swedish People's Party, would have its own problems to overcome in negotiations: the National Coalition Party and the Social Democrats in particular are far apart on economic policy.