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Kulmuni: Centre will stay in government

Speaker of Parliament Matti Vanhanen described rumours about the Centre quitting the coalition as "over-dramatised".

Katri Kulmuni appeared briefly in Helsinki on Sunday. Image: Petteri Sopanen / Yle

Centre Party leader Katri Kulmuni, who resigned as finance minister and deputy prime minister on Friday, said on Sunday that her party intends to remain in government.

"The Centre will make decisions driven by the interest of Finland and the Finns. We are living in exceptional times, we now need stability in decision-making," she wrote in a Twitter post.

Following Kulmuni's resignation, there was speculation that her decision might be motivated by a desire to topple the five-party coalition government.

The news magazine Suomen Kuvalehti cited unnamed Centre Party figures as saying that they feared this was her plan. That followed an unexplained delay in a meeting to choose Kulmuni's successor.

Unexplained delay stokes rumour mill

The party was to have chosen a new finance minister on Sunday but the meeting was abruptly postponed on Saturday, with no reason or new date provided.

On Sunday Kulmuni said that the decision would be made on Monday. A meeting of the party board and parliamentary delegation is scheduled to begin at 9am.

That will leave little time for the new finance minister to take office before the government's presentation of its supplementary budget plan to Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.

That is followed by an EU finance ministers' meeting on Thursday. Both events are likely to dominated by stimulus plans as the economy of Finland and the rest of Europe slides back into recession.

Economic affairs minister Mika Lintilä, a Centre party veteran who served as finance minster for the second half of last year, said on Saturday that he would not turn down a chance to resume the post if offered.

Kulmuni's opponent in last autumn's election for the party leadership, now-Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen, said on Sunday that he was not available to take over as finance minister or as party chair next autumn, citing the impending birth of a child.

Vanhanen: Rumours "over-dramatised"

Speaker of Parliament Matti Vanhanen, a former prime minister and Centre party chair, said on Sunday that it was normal for a party to make a comprehensive re-evaluation of the political situation following a minister's resignation. He told the news agency STT that there was a desire to allow an extra day for this process.

Vanhanen described rumours that the Centre might be quitting the coalition as "over-dramatised". He said that he believed he would be aware if the party leadership had plans to bring down the government.

Other Centre leaders reached by STT on Sunday also expressed doubt about the rumours. Most said that leaving the government would be an extremely poor choice at a time when the country is grappling with the corona crisis and forming a new coalition would be very challenging.

Political analysts interviewed by Yle on Saturday said that Kulmuni's decision to step down was not only motivated by the uproar over high consultancy fees. They pointed to the Centre’s slumping support since Kulmuni took over eight months ago and her seeming inability to get the party's economic agenda across in Prime Minister Sanna Marin's left-leaning cabinet, with its strong focus on climate issues.

Kulmuni said on Saturday that she intends to run for re-election as party chair in early September, but political pundits say this might be difficult if she is not a government minister.