The Centre Party have nominated former Prime Minister and party chair and current speaker of parliament, Matti Vanhanen to replace Katri Kulmuni, who resigned on Friday over a 50,000-euro bill for consultancy services.
The announcement came on Monday morning after a meeting of the party’s leadership, parliamentary group and MEPs.
Vanhanen’s consideration for the position had been reported by Finland’s press earlier on Monday, even though the former PM had said on Friday he did not want the role and was further unwilling to reveal his intentions over the weekend as rumours swirled.
Vanhanen explained that Finland’s economic situation and the challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic are so serious that he felt compelled to accept the position.
"It was driven by a sense of duty," Vanhanen said of is decision to accept, adding that Finland now has three main challenges: suppressing the pandemic, promoting economic stimulus measures and addressing the economic situation within the EU.
The new Finance Minister has had a colourful career in Finnish politics. He became Prime Minister in June 2003 but resigned from the position, and quit politics, mid-way through his second term as PM in 2010, citing knee surgery as the reason for his decision.
However a series of personal and party scandals, related to campaign funding irregularities and improper conduct, had engulfed the politician once voted by readers of a women’s magazine as "Finland’s sexiest man".
Deputy Prime Minister not yet decided
Kulmuni confirmed that she will continue to lead the Centre Party, but ruled herself out of the running to replace Vanhanen as speaker of parliament.
The party has not yet decided who will become deputy prime minister, a position Kulmuni also vacated on Friday, as Vanhanen said he would not be taking up the role.
"I am not aspiring to become Deputy Prime Minister," Vanhanen confirmed.
Kulmuni dismissed a question from the press about how the coalition government will continue to cooperate, saying the speculation had been discussed much more "in the media" than in the Centre Party, and that the government parties are negotiating challenging economic issues throughout the summer and into the autumn.
"This country needs a stable government in order to deal with the current crisis," Kulmuni said.