Finland shifts to the right in election. Conservatives may join government after 20 years on outside

Finland's conservatives have emerged from general elections with their first chance in two decades to participate in the government. Ilkka Suominen, leader of the conservative National Coalition Party - which picked up nine new seats in the two-day elections - told reporters, ``They can't keep us out of government now.''

Political commentators said yesterday the election results showed a significant swing from the left and said a center-right coalition is set to oust Social Democratic Prime Minister Kalevi Sorsa.

The conservatives previously have been kept out of office mainly because of the delicate relations between Finland and the Soviet Union, its giant neighbor and key trading partner.

But the party has shifted toward the political center, and political commentators said Finnish foreign policy would remian unchanged even with the conservatives now in the government.

Politicians have refused to exclude the possibility of a grand coalition of Social Democrats, Centrists, and conservatives, but the commentators said any such cabinet was almost unheard of and would be short-lived.

They said a coalition of the Center Party of Foreign Minister Paavo V"ayrynen and the conservatives was more likely, with Mr. V"ayrynen as prime minister.

The Social Democrats remain Finland's biggest party, with 56 seats, while the conservatives now have 53 and V"ayrynen's Center Party won three more seats to bring it to 40 in Parliament.

The environmentalist Greens failed to live up to pre-election opinion polls, which predicted they would add 10 seats to the two they already held. The Greens added just two seats to their tally.

The Greens had been hoping to ride a wave of popular reaction against the nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl power station in the neighboring Soviet Union. One apparent result of the Chernobyl disaster was that Interior Minister Kaisa Raatikainen, a Social Democrat, lost her seat.

She faced a storm of criticism for failing to inform the public at an early stage of the gravity of the April 1986 disaster, when Finland received massive quantities of wind-borne radiation.

Finland's once-powerful Communists, split since 1986 into quarreling pro-Moscow hard-liners and ``Eurocommunist'' factions, suffered a drop in support, with hard-liners losing 6 of their 10 seats. The Eurocommunists lost 1 of their 17 seats. Some 63 women were elected, giving Finland one of the highest proportions of women in any European parliament.

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