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Anneli Jäätteenmäki, Prime Minister 2003, MEP 2004-

Anneli Tuulikki Jäätteenmäki (Master of Laws, born February 11 1955 in Lapua) was the first female Prime Minister of Finland, in office April 17th, 2003, to June 18th, 2003.

She worked as a lawyer from 1981 until 1987, when she was elected as a member of Finnish Parliament (Eduskunta). Jäätteenmäki was Minister of Justice 1994-1995. She was the leader of the Centre Party of Finland from June 18th, 2000, to October 5th, 2003, although the first year as deputy leader during Esko Aho's sabbatical leave to lecture at Harvard University.

After 8 years in opposition she led the Centre Party of Finland to a narrow victory over the formerly largest party, the Social Democratic Party of Finland. According to the new constitution, which was in effect for the first time after this election, she was thereby given the prime opportunity to form a new Cabinet. After successful coalition negotiations with the Social Democrats and the Swedish People's Party, she came to head a Coalition Cabinet which chiefly continued on the lines of its predecessor, but introduced new measures to stimulate the economy, including tax cuts.

During her brief time in office Finland was the only country in Europe to have women as both prime minister and president, a situation underlined by the fact that half of her cabinet were women, which however was quite in accordance with Finland's reputation as a country nurturing women's political contributions.

Anneli Jäätteenmäki's short term as Prime Minister for Finland is however not the shortest in the history of Finland. Beside caretaker cabinets and temporary prime ministers appointed due to death or disease of the predecessor, Juho Heikki Vennola headed a Cabinet which only lasted for one month and a few days in February-March 1931, in connection with the Lapua Movement's vociferous anti-democratic demands for influence on the presidential election.

Resignation and criminal investigation

Anneli Jäätteenmäki resigned on June 18, 2003, under pressure from the accusation that she'd lied to the Parliament and the public over how she'd acquired confidential Foreign Ministry documents used by herself during the election campaign. The documents contained diplomatic information from a meeting between USA's president George W. Bush and the then prime minister Paavo Lipponen about Finland's stand in the Iraq war. Jäätteenmäki used the information to suggest that her rival, the Social Democrat leader Paavo Lipponen, had secretly offered Finnish support for the US-led coalition, a substantial breach against the official policy of neutrality in Finland's foreign politics. Jäätteenmäki broke the traditional unity and silence behind Finland's security policies. As the elections turned out to be narrow, the defeated Social Democrats found reasons to suspect her untraditional campaign being decisive for the outcome, which soured the relationship between the two major coalition partners.

After the leaked documents were published in several newspapers in March, the police launched a criminal investigation on grounds of the official secrets act. On June 11th Prime Minister Anneli Jäätteenmäki was heard as a witness by the police, which led to increasing pressure on her to come clear on her role in the leak. On the same week, the incriminating minutes of a meeting of Center Party leaders was leaked to the press, as later came clear, via the Center Party second vice-chairman Hannu Takkula. On June 16th it came to light that the presidential aide Martti Manninen, affiliated with the Center Party, had leaked the Foreign Ministry documents. On June 18th, Mrs. Jäätteenmäki gave her "full explanation" to the Parliament and apologized to the President, claiming that she had been faxed the documents without asking for them, and that she had not known of their secrecy. The Parliament was not satisfied with her account, and once Mr. Manninen on the same afternoon publicly claimed that Mrs. Jäätteenmäki had specifically and forcefully asked for the information, and that he'd be able to prove it, her coalition parties made it clear that they had no trust in her leadership. She resigned the same evening, citing the lack of political trust, and without admitting any wrongdoing.

Consequently she announced on June 24th that she will resign as the leader of the Center Party. Matti Vanhanen was elected as a new party leader on October 5th and he succeeded her as Prime Minister.

The police investigation on the leak concluded on December 19, 2003 that Mrs. Jäätteenmäki should be prosecuted for aiding or abetting Mr. Manninen in revealing state secrets in contravention of the law. However, on March 19, 2004 the Helsinki District Court acquitted Mrs. Jäätteenmäki on all counts.

Current Position

Now she is a MEP for the Centre Party in the European Parliament. She received the highest number of votes with over 140 000.


Preceded by:
Paavo Lipponen
Prime Minister of Finland
2003
Succeeded by:
Matti Vanhanen

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External links

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