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Portugal's Bailout Becomes a Political Issue in Finland


European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn speaks at a news conference after an European Union finance ministers meeting at the EU council headquarters in Brussels, March 15, 2011 (file photo)

European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn speaks at a news conference after an European Union finance ministers meeting at the EU council headquarters in Brussels, March 15, 2011 (file photo)

Portugal's bid to secure an international bailout to help solve its debt crisis has become an issue in a national election - to the north in Finland.

Finnish voters are set to elect a new government on Sunday, and two of the four parties contending for parliamentary power have been critical of aiding debt-ridden European governments. As one of 17 countries using the common euro currency, Finland last year helped bail out Greece and Ireland. But the new Portuguese request has drawn both support and opposition in advance of the election.

The National Coalition Party and the Center Party, both of which are part of the current government, are leading pre-election polls. Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi of the agrarian Center Party said Finland is still committed to assisting other European neighbors that need it. She said, though, there would have to be "very tight" restrictions on any bailout for Portugal.

Two parties opposing further aid to other European governments, the True Finns and Social Democrats, are close behind the two leading parties in the latest polling. The True Finns have vowed to veto any request to increase Finland's contribution to European bailout funds. And one party leader said the True Finns would not participate in any coalition government that would approve further loan guarantees.

The European Union's top economic official, Olli Rehn, himself a Finn, last weekend called on the country to support Portugal's bailout, saying it is needed to ensure European stability.

But one poll showed 59 percent of Finns surveyed opposed further aid for other European neighbors, particularly at a time when Finnish welfare benefits are being cut.

Voter disapproval of the bailouts was evident in recent elections in Germany and France, which own Europe's two strongest economies. Opposition to the bailouts helped drive support for the National Front in France's recent local elections and contributed to the weak performance against Germany's governing parties in state elections.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

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