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Former horse association head to become new Economy Minister

Juha Sipilä’s Centre Party has selected the former head of the Finnish trotting and breeding association Mika Lintilä to replace Olli Rehn as the country’s Economic Affairs Minister. Lintilä has been a Centre Party MP since 1999, but the current ministerial appointment will be his first cabinet portfolio.

Huhtikuussa omistajaohjausasiat siirtyivät pääministerin salkusta elinkeinoministeri Mika Lintilälle. Image: Jarno Kuusinen / AOP

A joint meeting of the Centre Party’s party leadership and MPs has selected long-serving MP Mika Lintilä as Finland’s new Economic Affairs Minister. Lintilä won a close vote 37 – 33, defeating Centre Party grandee and career politico Mauri Pekkarinen, who previously served as Economic Affairs Minister from 2008 to 2011 under Matti Vanhanen and Mari Kiviniemi.

Following the vote, Lintilä thanked Prime Minister Juha Sipilä for nominating him and nodded to his supporters.

"It’s also good that I can now get acquainted with the ministry’s work while Olli Rehn takes care of the post until the end of the year," he said.

"There will be no deputy minister arrangement," he added.

Lintilä, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Administration, is not as well-known as Pekkarinen outside of Centre Party circles and his hometown Toholampi in western Finland's central Ostrobothnia, but he will now replace outgoing minister Olli Rehn, who will take up a position on the Bank of Finland’s Board of Directors.

Many years in the background

Although Lintilä has been a relatively low-profile party MP, he has made use of his nearly 20 years in the Parliament to develop an expansive network. He has been head of Suomen Hippo, the Finnish breeding and trotting association, which overseas equestrian sports and betting.  He has also chaired the Centre Party’s economic policy working group and he has served on Parliament’s Finance and Commerce committees.

Within the party, Lintilä is known as strong supporter of cooperation with the National Coalition party, a position that dates back to 2011 when NCP chair Jyrki Katainen was tasked with forming a six-pack government coalition.

In spite of his years working in the background, Lintilä was not rewarded with a ministerial portfolio following the general election in 2015 – instead newcomer MP Anne Berner caught Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s eye and took the post of Transportation and Communications Minister.