The National Coalition Party

The National Coalition Party

The National Coalition Party (Kansallinen Kokoomuspuolue-- KOK) was founded in November 1918 by members of the Old Finn Party and, to a lesser extent, by followers of the Young Finn Party. It represented interests desiring a strong state government that would guarantee law and order and the furtherance of commerce. Defeated in its attempt to establish a monarchal government, the party formulated a program in 1922 that clearly set out its conservative aim of emphasizing stability over reform. The large farms and businesses in southern Finland were the basis of the party's support.

Throughout the interwar period, the party was hostile to the rights of the Swedish-speaking minority and sought to deprive the Swedish language of its status as one of the country's two official languages. During the 1930s, it had close contacts with the radical right-wing movements that mirrored trends elsewhere and for a time posed a threat to Finnish democracy. One of the party's leaders, Juho Paasikivi, elected party chairman in 1934, attempted with some success to move it away from these extreme positions. The KOK was opposed to the Red-Earth government formed in 1937, but was not strong enough to prevent it. During the war, the party was part of the national unity governments.

After the war, the KOK became the most right-wing party in Finland, as groups farther right were banned by the armistice agreement of 1944 and the SKP was legalized. Despite Paasikivi's terms as prime minister in the first postwar years, his election to the presidency in 1946, and the role he played in the drafting of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance (FCMA-- see Appendix B) as well as in the reorienting of Finnish foreign policy, his party was not regarded as an acceptable coalition partner for much of the postwar period. Soviet doubts about the sincerity of KOK's support for the new direction of Finnish foreign policy, the so-called Paasikivi Line, was sufficient to keep the KOK, for decades the country's second largest nonsocialist party, out of government for most of the postwar period.

The party also was excluded from governments because it was seen by many to be rigidly right-wing, despite party program changes in the 1950s that moved it closer to the conservatism practiced by its sister parties in larger West European countries. The party program of 1957 formalized its support for a "social market economy" and for the concept of employer responsibility to wage earners.

In the postwar years, the KOK often allied with the SDP to reduce agricultural subsidies, a joint effort that continued in the late 1980s. The division between city and country interests continued to be a key element in Finnish politics in the second half of the 1980s, and it was one reason why the two principal nonsocialist parties, the KOK and Kesk, were political rivals.

An action that increased the enmity between the KOK and the Kesk leader, Kekkonen, and contributed to the Note Crisis was the formation of the so-called Honka League by the KOK and the SDP. The Honka League aimed to stop Kekkonen's reelection in 1962, but the attempt never had a chance, and it was soon abandoned. The KOK continued to be opposed to Kekkonen and to his foreign policy, however, and it was the only major party to oppose his reelection in 1968. Nevertheless, moderate elements in the party gradually gained control and softened its policies, both domestic and foreign. In the 1970 national elections, the KOK increased the number of its seats in the Eduskunta by one-third, and since 1979 it has been the largest nonsocialist party in the country.

Some right-wing members of the KOK, dissatisfied with the party's steady drift toward the political center, have left it. In 1973 some formed the Constitutional Party of the Right (Perustuslaillinen Oikeistopuolue--POP) to protest Kekkonen's special election to the presidency in 1974, but this only accelerated the KOK's move toward moderation. Under the leadership of Harri Holkeri--the party's candidate for the presidency in 1982 and in 1988, and Ilkka Suominen--longtime party chairman, the KOK has been able to attract many of those employed in Finland's rapidly growing service sector, and in the 1987 elections it nearly overtook the SDP. Kept out of power because of unexpected losses in the 1983 Eduskunta elections, Holkeri was able to form a government after the 1987 elections and to take the prime ministership for himself. He pledged his government to a program of preserving Finland's welfare state while maintaining a free market economy strong enough to be competitive abroad and to safeguard the country's prosperity.

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