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Centre Party MPs signal "no confidence" in PM Rinne

PM Antti Rinne’s fate hangs in the balance as the Centre Party leadership weighs support for the embattled premier.

Keskustan puheenjohtaja, elinkeinoministeri Katri Kulmuni.
Centre Party chair Katri Kulmuni speaking to the media. Image: Jouni Immonen / Yle

Centre Party MPs have signaled that they were not impressed by explanations offered by Prime Minister Antti Rinne, following questions over the government’s handling of a labour market dispute involving postal workers and state-owned mail carrier Posti.

Centre Party chair Katri Kulmuni said on Monday afternoon that while the coalition partner is committed to the current government coalition led by Rinne’s Social Democratic Party, there remains a crisis of confidence in the PM.

"We have no confidence in the individual [Rinne]. We want the government to be functional and for it to be able to handle national issues," Kulmuni told reporters.

When pressed whether or not this meant that the Centre no longer had confidence in Prime Minister Antti Rinne, Kulmuni responded simply, "We have no confidence."

The party leader said that the party leadership would meet on Monday evening to consider the matter. Kulmuni stressed that the Centre is still committed to the government’s composition and programme.

Her colleague Antti Kurvinen, chair of the Centre’s parliamentary group told reporters that Rinne’s account of the government’s actions in the labour market dispute were found wanting.

"The explanations given yesterday were not adequate," Kurvinen declared.

Questions over what govt knew -- and when

Party meetings began on Sunday and spilled over into Monday as government partners met to discuss the fallout between an apparent standoff between the lead government partner, the Social Democratic Party, and senior Posti leadership over the fate of 700 parcel sorting workers who had previously been transferred to lower-paid employment contracts.

PAU, the union representing postal and logistical workers, had embarked on a 17-day strike over the treatment of the 700 workers as well as over a new collective bargaining agreement. The industrial action ended last Wednesday when both sides reached a settlement.

The apparent crisis of confidence over the prime minister’s leadership turned on what the government knew about the plan and when. The government -- and Rinne -- stressed that it had not been told in advance of the new contract arrangements for the affected workers.

Posti board chairman Markku Pohjola was equally adamant that the minister responsible for state enterprise ownership and steering, Sirpa Paatero, was in the know. Paatero eventually resigned on Friday over her role in managing the dispute.

Backing from Greens, SPP holds steady

On Monday, the Swedish People’s Party met and decided that Rinne should be given a second chance, according to party chair and Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson. "We need stability now. None of us is perfect. In this situation the SPP supports Prime Minister Rinne, but I hope that there will be further discussion within the government," Henriksson said.

The minister noted that the government should no longer intervene in labour market disputes.

"Our view is that the Posti matter was not managed as well we would have hoped. There have been communication problems and it should be more accurate," she added.

Coalition partners had previously called on Rinne to give a detailed account of the circumstances leading up to the current situation, especially the Posti drama. On Monday morning, the PM told news agency STT that he had no comment to offer on the situation at that time.

On Tuesday the government will answer an interpellation on the matter tabled by opposition parties the National Coalition Party, the Christian Democrats and Movement Now. The interpellation will be followed by a confidence vote in the government on Wednesday.

Meanwhile the Chancellor of Justice has reportedly received several complaints about the PM’s conduct during the postal workers’ dispute.

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