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Newcomer to SDP leadership, Rinne could become new Finance Minister

Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen did not survive a leadership challenge within her Social Democratic Party. At an SDP convention in Seinäjoki, trade union challenger Antti Rinne narrowly edged Urpilainen out by a 257 to 243 votes.

Antti Rinne
Antti Rinne Image: Yle

Heading into the election, the vote was too close to call, with political pundits saying that undecided delegates would likely to make their decision only after the candidates made their final speeches. Antti Rinne, a hard-nosed 51-year-old lawyer from Helsinki, has led the private-sector white-collar salaried employees' trade union Pro since it was established in 2011. On Friday morning, Rinne prevailed over the well-known incumbent Jutta Urpilainen to take over the party leadership for the next three years -- giving him a shot at becoming the country's new finance minister.

The SDP is the second-largest party in Finland's government and Parliament. On Friday morning nearly 500 SDP delegates gathered in the western town of Seinäjoki to vote for an array of leaders including party secretary and three deputy chairs. But the vote that held major ramifications for the country -- and possibly even an impact on eurozone policy -- was for the party chair.

Two lead ministers to be replaced by mid-June

The change at the helm of the SDP comes at a crucial juncture in Finnish politics: just a few weeks before the European Parliament election, and just over a month before the party's main government partner, the National Coalition Party, is to choose a new leader. One of the main contenders for that post, European Affairs Minister Alex Stubb, is also running for a seat in the European Parliament.

The new NCP chair is to take over from Jyrki Katainen as prime minister, with Rinne becoming deputy prime minister. In other words, the two main figures in the government will be replaced within the next month and a half.

Rinne an experienced trade unionist

Antti Rinne is a trade unionist to the core: he has also piloted the Pro’s predecessor union, the Union of Salaried Employees (TU) as well as the Federation of Special Service and Clerical Employees (Erto).

The new party chair also served in the Transport Workers’ Union AKT, where he help the post of party secretary in the 1980s. He has also been an aide to former Trade and Industry Minister Jouko Skinnari and has maintained a private practice.

At a previous SDP party convention in 2012 Rinne contested the position of Vice President, but lost the ballot. He is married and the father of two children from a previous union.

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