SEINAJOKI, Finland May 9 Finnish social
democrats on Friday replaced its leader and finance minister
Jutta Urpilainen with union boss Antti Rinne in a move that
could complicate the government's efforts to curb debt as the
country battles economic downturn.
Rinne, who has criticised the government's austerity
measures, received 257 votes in the party congress election
against 243 votes for Urpilainen.
The result means Urpilainen will also step down from the
role of finance minister. Rinne has said he could take the post
if asked by the party council.
Rinne, 51, would be unable to make major policy changes in
the five-party government whose term will end in less than a
year, but analysts have said the ministerial changes could
complicate the coalition's efforts to implement its earlier
The government has agreed to cut public spending and
implement tax hikes worth in total around 7 billion euros ($9.7
billion), and outlined long-term plans to reform health care and
The biggest of the ruling parties, the conservative National
Coalition, is due to change the prime minister next month, and
Rinne the minister changes provide a chance to revise
He wants the government to create new jobs quickly by
stimulating the economy rather than curbing debt, and also to
invest in new industries to boost exports in the future.
"The government can accelerate on the home stretch ... To
me, the most important measures will be the ones that boost
growth and employment," he said before the vote.
Since Urpilainen took the party helm in 2008, support for the
social democrats has fallen from 21 to 15.5 percent, weakening
its chances to retain posts in the cabinet after the general
election next year.
Rinne has also said he favours changing the European Central
Bank's mandate to allow it to directly buy government bonds to
moderate debt yields. He would also add employment and growth as
a new ECB monetary policy target.
In addition, he wants to cut interests and lengthen
maturities on Greece's bailout loans to help the troubled
($1 = 0.7214 Euros)
(Reporting By Jussi Rosendahl Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)