Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne resigned on Tuesday (3 December) after his handling of a postal strike soured relations between him and a member party of the ruling five-party coalition.
Rinne handed in his notice earlier in the day to President Sauli Niinisto. The head of state has asked the current administration to remain in place, as the parliament is expected to appoint a new prime minister next week.
Finland’s ruling coalition is made up of five parties, including Rinne’s Social Democrats and the Center Party, which triggered his resignation after expressing a lack of confidence in the now-former prime minister.
The Center Party did not hold a no-confidence vote, as it still wants to remain in government and in the same coalition, according to chairwoman Katri Kulmuni.
A two-week postal strike in November was the catalyst for Rinne’s downfall. Industrial action – which is rare in Finland – eventually spread from the state-owned mail carrier to FinnAir, the national airline.
The dispute was only settled last week but the damage had already been done.
The Center Party is unlikely to push for a new election. It and coalition allies are trailing in the polls and could lose ground to the nationalist Finns Party. The Finns came second in last April’s election, just behind Rinne’s Social Democrats.
A frontrunner to take over from Rinne is Transport Minister Sanna Marin, who today returned to Helsinki from Brussels, where she had been due to chair the second day of the telecommunications council.
Marin confirmed that she had to return to her homeland because of the political crisis but insisted that “Finnish ministers are required to be present at home”.
She will become only the third woman to hold the office if her appointment comes to fruition, as well as the youngest-ever head of government.
Finland is the current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency and the chairing duties of the Council meeting were taken on by Croatia, which is due to take over in January anyway. It will be the newest EU member’s first stint in charge.