Finland prime minister Antti Rinne resigns after coalition collapses

PM criticised heavily over handling of postal service workers’ strike in November

Prime minister of Finland Antti Rinne gives a press conference where he announces his resignation. Photograph: Mikko Stig/Lehtikuva/AFP

Prime minister of Finland Antti Rinne gives a press conference where he announces his resignation. Photograph: Mikko Stig/Lehtikuva/AFP

 

Finland’s prime minister has resigned after a key coalition partner withdrew its support from his five-party government following a strike at the country’s postal service that spread to the national flag carrier Finnair.

Antti Rinne, who only took office in June, had faced heavy criticism in recent days over how he and a fellow Social Democratic minister dealt with a two-week strike at the state-owned postal service Posti in November.

Mr Rinne, who used to be a union leader, and Sirpa Paatero were accused of giving inaccurate and contradictory information in the run-up to the strike, specifically over the transfer of work contracts for 700 Posti package handlers, which effectively led to lower pay.

Ms Paatero, who was in charge of state-owned companies, resigned on Friday.

Mr Rinne had been under pressure for days over the Posti case and his role in the strike that ended on November 27th after a deal was reached on pay. He had accused Posti’s senior management for misleading him over potential pay cuts.

The strike led to a one-day sympathy strike by the transport sector, including Finnair, which had to cancel almost 300 flights.

Mr Rinne, who will remain in post until a successor is decided upon next week, has denied any wrongdoing. His government holds a comfortable majority of 117 seats in the 200-seat Eduskunta, Finland’s parliament.

His resignation prompted the formal resignation of the cabinet made up of Mr Rinne’s Social Democratic Party, the Centre Party, the Greens, the Left Alliance and the Swedish People’s Party of Finland.

Legislators will decide on a new prime minister next week. Until then, the cabinet will continue as a caretaker government until a new one takes over as planned on December 13th, according to Finnish media.

It is unclear whether Mr Rinne will represent Finland at next week’s European Union leaders’ summit in Brussels. Finland currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

The Social Democrats retain the power to appoint one of their own to the post of prime minister and are set to decide in the coming days on Mr Rinne’s successor. Transport minister Sanna Marin and Antti Lindtman, who leads the Social Democrats’ parliamentary grouping, are widely considered to be the most likely candidates.

The Centre Party pulled its support from Mr Rinne’s government on Monday and urged him to resign or face a no-confidence vote.

“There has been lack of trust shown by the Centre Party and in discussions today they detailed reasons for that,” he said in his resignation statement.

“After receiving that reply, I naturally reflected on what that meant for the government and I drew my own conclusions.”

He said he would continue as the chairman of the Social Democratic Party at least until next summer’s party congress.

“Thanks for the . . . many moments of good co-operation,” President Sauli Niinisto said on accepting his resignation. – AP