Finland's finance chief ousted after losing party leadership

Finland's Finance Minister Alexander Stubb (right) at a news conference in the Prime Minister's official residence Kesaranta in Helsinki, on March 2, 2016.
Finland's Finance Minister Alexander Stubb (right) at a news conference in the Prime Minister's official residence Kesaranta in Helsinki, on March 2, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

HELSINKI (AFP) - Finnish Finance Minister Alexander Stubb will leave his cabinet post after losing his conservative party's chairmanship to Interior Minister Petteri Orpo in a vote on Saturday (June 11).

Orpo, 46, beat out Stubb, a former prime minister, by a vote of 441 to 361 in the leadership race, the National Coalition Party said.

The NCP holds four cabinet posts in a coalition government that also includes the Centre Party and the Finns Party.

In Finland, coalition parties usually divide up the cabinet posts amongst themselves, and each party chairman then proposes the ministers who will hold those positions.

Orpo had already made it clear that he would take over the finance ministry portfolio if he were to win Saturday's chairmanship race.

"Orpo will now propose the new ministers for his party, probably at the end of next week ... The president will then announce the new ministers," the chair of the NCP's parliamentary group, Arto Satonen, told AFP.

Stubb, 48, took over the NCP chairmanship in 2014 and served as prime minister from June 2014 until April 2015 when he lost a legislative election to Centre leader Juha Sipila, now the country's premier.

Once Finland's most popular and dynamic politician known for his athletic good looks and frequent use of social media, Stubb has in recent years struggled to win support at home amid a slumping economy.

His leadership skills and interest in domestic politics have also been called into question, according to observers.

Orpo meanwhile enjoys strong support within the NCP, seen as a down-to-earth career politician who has won approval for his efficient handling of the refugee crisis as interior minister.