Friday 10.07.2020

Finland celebrates Independence Day with a caretaker government

The Council of the Social Democratic Party will elect a candidate for Prime Minister on Sunday evening. The polls on Antti Rinne's successor will be one of the main topics of debate for the 1,700 guests in the traditional reception at the Presidential Palace.

Photos by Presidential Office, Finnish Government, JP Flander/SDP and @AnttiLindtman/Twitter.
Photos by Presidential Office, Finnish Government, JP Flander/SDP and @AnttiLindtman/Twitter.

Finland will celebrate this 6 December the Independence Day with a resigned prime minister and a caretaker government. This, and the polls on Antti Rinne's possible successors, will undoubtedly be the great matters of debate among the 1,700 people who are invited to the traditional reception at the Presidential Palace.

Elected in April 2019 and appointed in June as the head of a five-party coalition government, the leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) Antti Rinne presented his resignation last Tuesday to the President of the Republic, Sauli Niinistö, after only 6 months in office. 

Rinne's fall occurred one day after his main partners in the government coalition of the Center Party led by the Minister of Economic Affairs Katri Kulmuni withdrew their confidence in the Prime Minister for his role in the November postal strike.

A former unionist, the Prime Minister was accused of misleading the Parliament by saying that he did not know about the plans of the state-owned postal company (Posti) to cut the labour conditions of 700 workers by transferring them under a new collective agreement. His words were later refuted by Posti's managers.

Rinne surely had a hard time going to the Mäntyniemi Presidential residence to present his resignation to the Head of the State. President Niinistö approved his departure, but requested his Government to remain "on a caretaker basis". Leaders of the other coalition parties (Center Party, Green League, Left Alliance and the Swedish People's Party) expressed their willingness to maintain the current cooperation agreement and the government programme.

Speculation began immediately

Finland, a country also holding the rotating Presidency of the European Union until the end of the year, is now lacking a head of the Government.

Speculation about who will be Rinne's successor began even before his resignation. To the point that the vice chair of the SDP, Minister of Transport and Communications Sanna Marin, who had to hurry back from Brussels on Tuesday due to the government crisis, said just after landing in Helsinki airport, even before Rinne went to meet the President in Mäntyniemi, that she was willing to take the post.

Sanna Marin's name is the one that sounds the most for the post of prime minister now, along with that of the chairman of the Social Democratic Parliamentary Group Antti Lindtman

Both candidates are very young (Marin is 34 years old and Lindtman 37) and that is something that worries some actors in Finland's politics.

Some Finnish media have been questioning for the past few days their suitability due to their limited experience. In Marin's case, her leftist profile has also been highlighted. About Lindtman, they have stressed that the never worked outside politics.

Supported by young people and women

Minister of Development and Commerce Ville Skinnari, who was in Washington at the time of the crisis, was also mentioned as a possible candidate. But he right away said on Twitter that he was backing Sanna Marin.

Since the speculation started, Marin's profile has gained a lot of support in social media, specially among young people and women.

On Thursday, the board of the SDP proposed Antti Rinne to lead negotiations on forming the new government. This proposal was heavily criticized, special by the right-wing National Coalition Party (or Kokoomus in Finnish).

PM candidate to be elected on Sunday

The SDP board also announced that the Council of the party will elect a prime minister candidate on Sunday evening.

By now, a poll made by the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation (Yle) gives Sanna Marin the support of 20 SDP councilors against other 14 councilors that would be backing Lindtman. However, those number say little, since other 27 members of the Council did not express their preferences yet.

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