UPDATED: Finnish finance minister Vanhanen steps down to give position to party leader Saarikko

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Finnish Finance Minister Matti Vanhanen will step down and be replaced next week by Annika Saarikko, the leader of the Centre Party who currently serves as science and culture minister, the party said on Saturday.

The planned mid-term switch was agreed when Vanhanen took over https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN23F0P6 the position from Katri Kulmuni, who resigned in June 2020 after admitting she had used taxpayers’ money to pay for training in public speaking.

Saarikko, 37, was quoted as telling a local newspaper on Saturday she thought it was a good time for the swap to take place after the coalition government published its public spending guidelines on April 29.

She is due to start work at the Finance Ministry on Thursday, a Centre Party official told Reuters.

Saarikko, who has been a member of parliament since 2011, was elected party leader in September 2020 after she returned from maternity leave, beating Kulmuni in the leadership contest.

Last month’s government negotiations over future spending were meant to last three days but dragged on for more than a week as Saarikko and her party rejected several of the prime minister’s proposals.

Eventually the five-party, centre-left coalition agreed to cap public spending at 63.8 billion euros with a deficit of 7.6 billion next year, and at 77 billion with a deficit of 8.9 billion in 2023.

Disagreements between the Centre Party and its coalition partner the Social Democrats had raised concerns that the Finnish parliament would not pass the EU’s COVID-19 recovery plan, but on Wednesday it was approved with support from all the governing parties as well as one major opposition party. 

Photo: Finnish Finance Minister Matti Vanhanen