[fyeg_gen-l] Governmental crisis in Finland
panu at luna.vihrealiitto.fi
Thu Jun 19 10:07:41 CEST 2003
We are having the most astonishing moment in finnish politics ever...what
a mess. See the article below concerning Anneli Jäättenmäki´s resign.
Prime Minister Anneli Jäätteenmäki (Centre Party)
tendered her resignation on Wednesday evening, after acknowledging that she had
lost the confidence of her Social Democrat coalition partners and ultimately
that of members of her own party. The matter at issue involved the leaking of
confidential Foreign Ministry documents during the run-up to March
Jäätteenmäki travelled to Naantali and to the President's summer residence of
Kultaranta, where she formally submitted the resignation of her administration.
President Tarja Halonen accepted Jäätteenmäki's resignation and requested that
Jäätteenmäki's government remain in office in a caretaker capacity until a new
government has been formed.
Jäätteenmäki announced her resignation personally in a press conference held
shortly after 7pm on Wednesday evening. She stated that she no longer enjoyed
the confidence required to continue in her post.
Centre Party leaders will gather next Tuesday to resolve their continued
participation in the government and to choose a person to succeed Jäätteenmäki.
On Wednesday the strongest candidate for the post appeared to be the current
Minister of Defence Matti Vanhanen, the Centre Party's Vice-Chairman. Vanhanen
is also regarded as a likely candidate for the position of Party Chairman.
The so-called "Iraqgate" scandal, which has been widely reported in these pages
(see links below), moved inexorably towards its end-game in Parliament on
Jäätteenmäki's statement to Parliament on the leaked Iraq documents - which
were thought to have been a contributory factor to the Centre Party's election
victory in March - left a number of unanswered questions.
It became clear that Social Democrat MPs did not accept Jäätteenmäki's remarks
concerning the leakage of the confidential Foreign Ministry memoranda. These
documents concerned discussions in Washington last year between the then Prime
Minister Paavo Lipponen (SDP) and U.S. President George W. Bush. The material
was employed by Jäätteenmäki in debates prior to the March parliamentary
elections to throw doubt on Finnish government policy over the emerging Iraq
crisis and suggest that Lipponen was more closely aligned with U.S policy
positions than had previously been admitted.
The leader of the SDP members in the House Jouni Backman stated bluntly that
the party's confidence in the Prime Minister was at an end.
When the Social Democrat objections were made clear on Wednesday morning,
Jäätteenmäki attempted to defend her position by calling for talks with SDP
Within the Social Democrat camp there were fears that the Centre Party would
not react in any way to Backman's announcement. At one stage the opposition
parties in Parliament considered calling for a vote of confidence or
interpellation debate on the matter, but this was rejected as it was hoped - in
the words of National Coalition Party Chairman Ville Itälä - "...that the
government would do its own dirty work for itself".
In the course of the afternoon it became clear that Jäätteenmäki's efforts were
in vain, even though the Centre Party's ranks remained together, albeit with
All hell finally broke loose for the Prime Minister with an announcement by the
Presidential advisor Martti Manninen, the man already acknowledged as the
source of the leaks.
Manninen told the Finnish News Agency (STT) that Jäätteenmäki had specifically
requested information from him over the Iraq issue earlier in the spring.
Jäätteenmäki had denied this on more than one occasion during the morning in
her statement to Parliament. The PM's statement contained the words: "I had not
requested these documents either, and they came to me as a total surprise."
Manninen's own remarks to STT painted a different picture. "Jäätteenmäki
contacted me shortly before the first election debate and requested a meeting.
At this meeting Jäätteenmäki had shown an interest in the Iraq material and
gave me her unlisted fax number for correspondence. Jäätteenmäki was also in
telephone contact with me later", charged Manninen.
Secretary of State Risto Volanen (effectively the Prime Minister's Chief of
Staff) reported having met Manninen in the Presidential Palace shortly before
Jäätteenmäki was interviewed by police last week in connection with the
According to Volanen, Manninen had threatened that he would accuse Jäätteenmäki
of incitement to divulge confidential information - basically, coaxing him to
leak the memoranda surrounding the Washington discussions - if Jäätteenmäki
were to reveal Manninen's involvement in the leak.
When the news of Manninen's contradictory comments reached the ears of the
parliamentary wing of the Centre Party, the Prime Minister's support within her
own party melted away.
An initial overture from the Centrists to the Social Democrats offering
discussion of the situation by Centre Party officials next Tuesday was bluntly
rejected by the SDP government partners. The Centre Party were obliged to bow
to the inevitable.
Eero Heinäluoma, Secretary of the Social Democratic Party, commented that the
decision by Jäätteenmäki to stand down was the only reasonable way out of the
situation. He charged that the conditions for her continued presence at the
head of the coalition of Centrists, SDP, and the Swedish People's Party no
Heinäluoma expressed the belief that there would be no permanent damage to
government cooperation between the SDP and the Centre Party over what had
The Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister Antti Kalliomäki (SDP), will
represent Finland at the Thessaloniki European Council to be held over the
Following her party's narrow victory in the March elections, Anneli
Jäätteenmäki became Finland's first-ever female Prime Minister. For just over
two months - the length of this short-lived government - Finland was the only
country in Europe to have women simultaneously holding down the jobs of PM and
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