Finnish PM says expects government to survive his departure

HELSINKI Sun Apr 6, 2014 9:56am EDT

Finland's Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen is interviewed on Yle Radio Finland in Helsinki April 6, 2014. REUTERS/Mikko Stig/Lehtikuva

Finland's Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen is interviewed on Yle Radio Finland in Helsinki April 6, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Mikko Stig/Lehtikuva

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen expressed confidence on Sunday that Finland's left-right coalition would survive his departure in June and said he saw no need for early elections.

Katainen, 42, announced on Saturday he would not run again as chairman of his conservative National Coalition party, which means he will cease to be prime minister in June.

Even before Katainen's announcement, political analysts and opposition lawmakers had become more skeptical about the durability of the quarrelsome multi-party coalition, which still has a year to run until the next parliamentary election.

Last month, it lost one of its six parties due to budget disagreements and the Social Democrats, the second biggest party in the coalition, may decide next month to replace their leader, Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen, due to low poll ratings.

Katainen, who hopes to take a senior European Union post, said the government's five parties remained committed to the program they agreed on in 2011.

"The parties will continue their work in the coalition although persons change ... I haven't heard that any (government) party leader would not be committed to the program," he told public radio in an interview.

Katainen's coalition has managed to preserve Finland's triple-A credit rating despite an economic recession, cutting public spending and implementing tax hikes worth around 7 billion euros ($9.6 billion) to curb debt.

Katainen said a recent budget accord and a preliminary health care deal showed the government could still take tough decisions.

"Finland is a mature democracy. We are used to operating in a responsible way. That means that parties are capable of keeping their internal issues out of the government," he said.

"It would be bad for Finland's image if we started to prepare for early elections with no specific reason." ($1 = 0.7303 Euros)

(Reporting By Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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