Prime Minister comes out swinging in political fight

The Centre Party has made it clear they support the government, but not the Prime Minister. Now Antti Rinne is calling their bluff to support him, or vote against him.

File picture of Prime Minister Antti Rinne (SDP) / Credit: TPK

Prime Minister Antti Rinne (SDP) has come out swinging in a political fight against one of the parties in his own government coalition – and given the Centre Party an ultimatum on his own future.

On Monday the Centre Party made it very clear they don’t want Rinne to continue as PM.

“Today, the Centre has had serious and principled discussions. Our confidence in the five-party coalition and in the government programme is strong, but confidence in the functioning of the government has been shaken. We hope the Social Democrats will restore it” Centre Party leader Katri Kulmuni told journalists.

What’s the dispute about?

The whole dispute is about terms and conditions for hundreds of postal workers, and how the government handled it.

On Sunday night Rinne gave his own explanation to the other government party leaders about his role in the dispute over switching collective bargaining agreement for parcel staff at state-owned Posti.

It’s a classic political tale of who knew what, and when. There’s an accusation from opposition parties that Rinne may have mislead parliament about what information he had about Posti’s plans to shift the postal worker contracts, and when he learned about it.

The union which represents workers say that some of the 700 affected staff could have lost 30% to 50% of their salaries when the collective bargaining agreements were moved to a new union, and it sparked 17 days of strikes.

How has Rinne reacted? 

On Monday night after meeting with his party leadership for several hours, Rinne gave defiant comments to journalists.

“There has been discussion on this situation tonight, and I have to say that if my communication has been said to be unclear, then the message from the Centre Party is even more unclear” he said.

Rinne has given the Centre Party an ultimatum to say clearly on Tuesday whether they think he has the capacity to continue as Prime Minister or not.

Both the Social Democrats and Centre Party have raised the stakes on this dispute and if either side backs down now, it would likely weaken the government – at least in the short term.

However, Antti Rinne has the support of his party ahead of a no-confidence vote in parliament on Wednesday brought by two opposition parties.

He’s now calling the Centre Party’s bluff: either support him before that vote and allow him to continue as Prime Minister, or vote against him and potentially risk the collapse of the government.