October 22, 2012 / 7:13 PM / in 5 years

Finnish prime minister unharmed in knife scare

A woman closes her roadside stall, at the location where Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen was attacked in Turku October 22, 2012. REUTERS/Vesa Moilanen/Lehtikuva

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen was unhurt after being confronted by a man with a knife during a pre-election rally in the western city of Turku, his aides said on Monday.

A man talked to Katainen before pulling out a knife, Katainen’s spokesman Kari Mokko said. The man was immediately grabbed by Katainen’s security guards and taken away by police.

“He pulled out a knife and he was close to the prime minister,” Mokko said. “The prime minister was unharmed and police in Turku are investigating.”

The man’s motive was unknown. Helsingin Sanomat’s online edition only described him as a man with long hair. Public broadcaster YLE said the man dropped the knife on the ground in front of the prime minister and did not appear aggressive.

A general view of roadside stalls where Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen was attacked in Turku October 22, 2012. REUTERS/Vesa Moilanen/Lehtikuva

Katainen, head of the fiscally conservative and pro-euro National Coalition Party, later resumed greeting voters ahead of Sunday’s municipal elections, aides said.

The 41-year-old former finance minister is widely popular. An opinion poll published by the Ilta-Sanomat newspaper last Friday indicated his party would win the biggest share of votes, with the Social Democrats a close second.

The anti-euro Finns Party is seen finishing fourth in percentage terms, behind the agrarian Centre Party.

Finland is one of the few remaining triple-A rated economies in the euro zone thanks to its tight fiscal spending but a fall in exports has forced many companies to slash jobs in recent months.

Some voters have been unhappy at Finland’s participation in European bailouts, saying they reward profligate countries while Finnish taxpayers suffer austerity at home.

Reporting by Ritsuko Ando and Terhi Kinnunen; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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