Revised and extended version of the earlier planting (most recently on 21 March)
Or should I say photo Finnish?
The current Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen is the head of the Centre Party, which will have 51 of 200 seats. The conservative National Coalition is not part of the current governing coalition, but is now one seat behind the Centre.
Compared to 2003, the Centre Party lost support, even though it remains the largest party. The Social Democrats fall from the 53 seats they had won in 2003 to only 45 now. Thus it looks like there could be a realignment of the Finland’s coalition government towards the right.
Analysis: Government possibilities
Given that a Centre-National coalition would have exactly one more than half the seats, a narrow center-right government could form. However, that does not mean it will form, and there is a fairly strong tendency of Finnish governments to be greater than minimal winning (and you can’t get more minimal than 101 seats out of 200). Therefore, it is not a given that a rightward shift of the coalition will result. See Michael’s more-detailed analysis, in which he notes that two other leftish parties combined for 32 seats and two others of the right for just 12.
Analysis: Impact of (not-quite fully) proportional representation
It’s worth noting that the proportionality in Finland is not calculated nationally, but rather in a series of regional multi-seat districts of varying district magnitude. Thus a party with an optimal geographic distribution does slightly better than one that may have a similar nationwide votes share but less optimal geographic distribution.* (See Alex’s comment for more.)
Look at the advantage ratios (% seats/% votes) for the top three parties:
Social Dem, 1.047
These are not huge differences, and would be almost trivial compared to what we see in less proportional systems. However, in such a close election, they matter. In fact, the Centre-National minimal winning coalition is possible only because those two parties were somewhat over-represented, compared to the Social Democrats.
If all three of the leading parties had had the same advantage ratio as the Social Democrats, the seats would have been a bit different: Centre (48), National Coalition (46), Social Democrat (45), instead of 51-50-45. The Centre-National coalition would not be feasible.
I do not know Finnish politics well enough to predict the result of the bargaining that will now follow. However, the advantage that the National Coalition (and, to a lesser extent, Centre) obtained from the electoral system gives likely Prime Minister-designate Vanhanen and his Centre party leverage over the Social Democrats that it otherwise would not, even if Vanhanen ultimately reconstitutes his center-left coalition.
In very close elections, even very small deviations from proportionality matter. If the Social Democrats had won the most votes by the same narrow margin as they trailed in the actual results, but with the parties’ having their same respective advantage ratios, we would have had a plurality reversal in the seats relative to the votes. ** That did not happen here, but it was close, and the actual differential treatment of the parties by Finland’s PR system may yet affect the coalition result.
* The differential treatment of the Finnish parties appears to be another case of the bias introduced against predominantly urban parties by magnitude variance. The bias results when one set of parties (usually conservative) are especially strong in rural areas that have lower district magnitude, and thereby benefit from the lesser proportionalityof votes-to-seats translation in those districts. On the other hand, the (usually leftist) parties that are strongest in urban areas with very large district magnitudes do not get the same sort of bonus out of their own strongholds. Meanwhile, the “rural” party has a (minority) constituency within the large urban districts, it gets proportionally repersented there, thanks to the large magnitude. (The “urban” parties get under-represented in the smaller districts even if they have a comparable minority share of the vote in such districts, which they may not.)
Of course, this bias, while real, is nothing like we see in plurality systems.
(Added 21 March: See Alex’s comment on the geographic distribution. Unlike me, he actually bothered to look at the district-level data and saw that the National and Centre did quite well in several large districts. However, the higher advantage ratios for these parties can’t result only from large districts, given the inherently greater proportionality of such districts. So, there is clearly more to the story. As Alex also reminds us, the provisions in the Finnish electoral law for inter-party alliances (vote pooling across parties within a common list) are undoubtedly also part of the picture.)
** Excuse me for almost wishing something that interesting had happened.