[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
LANGUAGES
Russian
Polish
Albanian
Greek
Serbian
Turkish
More
Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 June, 2003, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
Scandal-hit Finns get teetotal PM
Matti Vanhanen
Vanhanen's first tasks will include rebuilding trust
A teetotal former journalist is to become Finland's new prime minister, a week after the former leader was forced to quit in a secrets scandal.

Defence Minister Matti Vanhanen was approved by parliament on Tuesday.

He replaces Anneli Jaatteenmaki, the first woman to hold the job, who resigned after being accused of lying over how she obtained secret documents which may have helped her win March elections.

Mr Vanhanen, 47, is a specialist in EU affairs, foreign and security policy from Ms Jaatteenmaki's Centre Party.

Anneli Jaeaetteenmaeki after her resignation
Jaatteenmaki was accused of lying over leaks
However, his first priority may well be to rebuild trust after the row which brought down Ms Jaatteenmaki.

She had used leaked documents during her election campaign, accusing her main rival of closer ties with the US than he was admitting.

Mr Vanhanen's candidacy was confirmed early on Tuesday by the Centre Party's parliamentary group.

"Matti Vanhanen is our group's candidate - there were no other candidates," said Centre Party spokesman Tapani Katila.

The change in prime minister is not expected to shift the three-way coalition between the Centre Party, the Social Democrats and the small Swedish People's Party.

He doesn't arouse great emotions for or against. Therefore he has all the tools to be successful in this somewhat stormy situation
Erkki Laatikainen
Newspaper editor

Mr Vanhanen's teetotal stance is unusual in Finland.

"If I offer a working lunch myself, the drink is water, (non-alcoholic) home brew, or milk," Vanhanen said in a recent newspaper interview. "On the other hand, I have made it clear that etiquette does not have to change because of me."

Commentators said Mr Vanhanen's apparently bland public persona could be to his advantage after the scandal.

"He doesn't arouse great emotions for or against. Therefore he has all the tools to be successful in this somewhat stormy situation," said Erkki Laatikainen, editor-in-chief of regional paper Keskisuomalainen.

Short reign

Ms Jaatteenmaki had been in power for just 63 days when she resigned. She claimed that she had not asked for the secret documents, insisting they possession unsolicited.

However, her version of events was contradicted by the presidential aide who had leaked the papers.

I cannot fight with full strength for the matters which are so extremely important for us
Anneli Jaatteenmaki resigning as party leader

The contents of the documents, implying that then prime minister Paavo Lipponen supported the United States over Iraq, were seen as crucial to securing Ms Jaatteenmaki's narrow win.

Finland still has a female president, Tarja Halonen. It was briefly the only country in Europe to have women in both top jobs.

Ms Jaatteenmaki has also stood down as party leader.

"I cannot continue as the chairwoman of the Finnish Centre Party," she said. "I cannot fight with full strength for the matters which are so extremely important for us."

Ms Jaatteenmaki continues to insist that she has done nothing wrong, and says she believes a police inquiry will clear her.


SEE ALSO:
Leak scandal sinks Finnish PM
18 Jun 03  |  Europe
Opposition wins Finnish poll
17 Mar 03  |  Europe
Country profile: Finland
26 Sep 02  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Finland
06 Mar 03  |  Country profiles


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific