Finland’s Prime Minister Resigns…Rinne Home for Christmas – SULONORTH

UPDATE 3 December 2200 HELSINKI: As expected, Antti Rinne has resigned as Finland’s Prime Minister. He’ll stay on to lead a caretaker government until a new PM is agreed, or in the unlikely event a snap election is called. See below for who we’re betting will be Finland’s next Prime Minister.

The Finnish Government is in deep trouble. It is very likely that Prime Minister Antti Rinne will be ‘home for Christmas,’ or perhaps we should say ‘by Christmas’. Rinne is currently under heavy scrutiny due to allegedly making false statements regarding the recent postal strike. 

In the early evening on December 2, the Centre Party (Finnish: Keskusta) expressed a lack of confidence and distrust in Rinne, who is a member of the Social Social Democratic Party (Finnish: Suomen sosialidemokraattinen puolue). The Centre and SDP are the main parties in the current coalition government. Other parties have previously expressed concerns over the PM’s behaviour also. 

However, the Centre Party is likely to proceed carefully as they don’t actually want another election, in which they may perform poorly. Instead, they are pushing the SDP to force Rinne out.

Background: Posti Strike controversy

The whole situation started when it was discovered that Rinne and the now ex-Minister of Local Government and Ownership Steering, Sirpa Paatero knew more than they had claimed about state-owned postal company Posti’s plans to cut pay for 700 workers. 

Both Paatero and Rinne claimed that they had no knowledge of Posti’s plans for pay cuts but the Postal Union Leader (PAU) Heidi Nieminen and Posti board member Markku Pohjola disputed those claims. 

“Posti informed the minister of our outsourcing plans during the preparation stage,” Pohjola was quoted as saying, according to Yle.

Helsingin Sanomat reported that Paatero received Posti’s plans to move 700 parcel sorters and 8,100 postal delivery workers to a different, cheaper employment contract on June 7, 2019. The Posti’s board members decided to put the plan into action after returning from a lavish trip to San Francisco in mid-August. Posti chiefs discussed the decision – which would decrease the salaries and benefits of 700 postal workers dramatically – with Paatero on August 21. She did not express any opposition to the plans, according to reports. 

A Posti delivery cart on the streets of Helsinki.

Too little, too late 

On September 3, Paatero announced a timeout regarding the employment contract transfer. This was too late, however, since 700 parcel sorters had already been moved under the new contract on September 1. 

On Nov 29, when Paatero announced her resignation, Rinne threw her under the bus claiming that she had not followed his orders. According to Rinne, Paatero should have stated her objections to changing the terms of employment for the Posti workers.

Rinne appears to be using Paatero as a scapegoat and as a last attempt to save his political skin. This will be unlikely to work. 

Push to shove?

If the Centre Party withdraws support from Rinne, the government will likely fall, should the SDP continues to support him. This would be too large of a risk for the SDP. The party has been losing support steadily since coming to power in Parliamentary elections in April this year. It is likely they will force Rinne out to save the government, hence keeping their position intact.

The SDP Party members held a party congress on the evening of December 2 at their main party office in Hakaniemi district’s iconic Ympyrätalo in Helsinki. They discussed Rinne’s situation and decided not to vote for his resignation at this time.  

Rinne made a very brief public appearance and commented on the situation, critising the Centre Party’s for being unclear with their demands. 

“If my way of communicating has been said to be unclear, I have to say that the Centre Party’s way of communicating is even more unclear, ” Rinne said.

“At the moment it is hard to know what they (the Centre Party) want in this situation. That is why tomorrow, for my due process, I want a Yes or No answer from them regarding if they want to continue working with me.”

Today (December 3) Rinne will be facing an interpellation organised by three opposition parties the Coalition Party (Finnish: Kokoomus), the Christian Democrats (Finnish: Kristillisdemokraatit) and the Movement Now (Finnish: Liike Nyt). That is, unless he has resigned before this happens. 

Vice President of the Social Democratic Party Sanna Marin seems to be the most likely choice to step into Rinne’s shoes following his nearly certain resignation.

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