Finland’s government falls, as Antti Rinne resigns as Prime Minister

President Niinistö accepted Rinne's resignation - and that of his government - at his official residence Mäntyniemi at 12:30 on Tuesday afternoon.

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Antti Rinne (R) submits his government's resignation to President Niinistö (L) in Mäntyniemi, Helsinki, 3rd December 2019 / Credit: Matti Porre, TPK

Finland’s five-party coalition government has collapsed less than six months into office, with Prime Minister Antti Rinne (SDP) handing in his government’s resignation to President Sauli Niinistö at 12:30 on Tuesday.

The resignation is the culmination of a political dispute over how Rinne and his ministers  handled a recent strike by postal workers which has been amplified by his political opponents.

The President’s Office announced that Niinistö has asked the current government to stay in place in a caretaker capacity until a new government is appointed.

In practice this means little will change and the Social Democrats will have to put forward a candidate for party leader and prime minister, as they are the largest party in parliament.

Who will become Finland’s new prime minister? 

A leading contender to replace Rinne is the current SDP first vice chair Sanna Marin, a Tampere MP who is also Minister of Transport. She flew back from Brussels on Tuesday morning saying she would be ready to be prime minister, if asked.

Another possibility is the leader of SDP’s parliamentary group Antti Lindtman.

“The situation is that the Centre Party’s parliamentary group and the Centre Party leadership have expressed mistrust of Prime Minister Rinne. For us, the situation is that we have supported the Prime Minister throughout this process” Lindtman told reporters on Tuesday.

Centre Party: kingmakers or disloyal partner?

Within 24 hours, the Centre Party became kingmakers in Antti Rinne’s coalition, and ultimately sealed his fate by saying they still had confidence in the government’s programme and being part of the coalition, but had lost trust in the prime minister himself.

Party leader Katri Kulmuni urged Social Democrats to come to the same conclusion as her party – a clear signal that the former prime minister had to go.

Jan Sundberg, Emeritus Professor of Politics at the University of Helsinki describes the whole situation as “politics on a low level.”

He says that the government handled the dispute with postal workers badly as “they’re not used to being employers” – Antti Rinne is indeed a former union chief.

“The dispute was solved, and the minister in charge of state owned companies she had to resign. But in my eyes there was not much damage done, but the whole thing backfired on the government” Professor Sundberg tells News Now Finland.

He also cites political machinations within the government, as the Centre Party and its new leader Katri Kulmuni look to bolster their own image amid falling poll numbers.

“Centre Party is a member of government, but it can be seen that they are trying to shore up their popularity somehow, because in the polls they’re only about 12%”

“This is politics on a low level. When some kind of a crisis with the mail system was solved, there was the aftermath, and you come to see what goes on beneath the surface, where the opposition tries to score points and also the Centre Party in government tries to gather points too. It’s low-market democracy to do it” he says.

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