181. Telegram From the Embassy in Finland to the Department of State0
27. While all results parliamentary elections not final it is clear continuing count absentee votes will not alter fact that Communist-Front SKDL won striking victory, attaining first or second place in Diet, while Agrarians suffered severe setback to third place.
Embassy does not believe outcome is likely to produce particularly adverse political effects. All Embassy contacts assume, and we agree, Communists will not be admitted to government unless President Kekkonen in effect goes nuts. Meanwhile shock treatment suffered by non-Communist parties should have taught much needed lesson that they cannot afford luxury of fighting among themselves or underestimating potency of Communists as in recent years.
Composition of new government probably will not be clear for several weeks but first efforts will certainly be directed toward forming a majority government based on coalition of most if not all non-Communist parties.
Results of the election appear due principally to the following: (1) Generally bad economic situation and outlook; (2) the special problem of unemployment; (3) dissension within and among non-Communist parties; (4) apathetic nature of campaign of non-Communist parties; (5) the organizational effectiveness, large expenditures, and hard work of the Communists, coupled with their usual willingness to make wild and irresponsible promises and proposals; (6) the exaggerated emphasis placed on Fenno-Soviet friendship by the President and the Agrarians, particularly in connection with President’s Moscow visit, which had the effect of placing a mantle of respectability about the Communists; and (7) the illusory but adroitly framed and timed series of “concessions” offered by the Soviets and accepted by the President,1 which among other things gave a stamp of approval to a number of Communist domestic demands.
Added factors which particularly affected the Agrarians included: (1) reaction against the efforts of the Agrarians to sell themselves as the party of Fenno-Soviet friendship; (2) a widespread tendency to place on the Agrarians responsibility for the ineffective governments of the last [Page 493] two years; and (3) widespread irritation over the Agrarian policy of favoring small farmers, particularly dairy farmers, as against grain producing larger farmers.
Contrary to first indications the election results can not be attributed to the small turnout as late returns, including a very large absentee vote, put the proportional turnout in line with previous post-war elections.
The Embassy, while discounting the effects on the likely cabinet setup, considers that the demonstration of strength by the Communists cause for real concern. The SKDL vote can in a sense be compared with the Communist vote in France and Italy in that it very largely represented a protest vote. However, in light of harsh Finn experiences and the realness of the shadow that the Soviet Union still casts over Finland, it is difficult to rationalize the fact that roughly a quarter of Finn voters expressed their protest through a Communist dominated party. Immediate implications do not appear serious, but from the long-term standpoint it now seems clear that the internal Communist threat will remain serious unless greater progress is made toward overcoming basic economic difficulties and unless non-Communist parties show greater willingness to forego the luxury of factionalism and extreme partisanship.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 760E.00/7–1058. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo, Moscow, and Reyjavik.↩
- The Soviet Government offered Finland a 400–500 million ruble credit and use of the Saimaa Canal. The Embassy’s evaluation of these and other aspects of the agreement are in despatch 752 from Helsinki, June 19. (Ibid., 760E.11/6–1958)↩