HELSINKI, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- Finnish Prime Minister and Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Antti Rinne resigned on Tuesday, following an announcement by the Center Party, one of the five coalition parties, that it would no longer support his role as head of the government.
As an interpellation debate raised by the opposition had been scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, Rinne pre-empted a risky vote of no confidence by his resignation.
Nonetheless, Center Party chairperson Katri Kulmuni has said that her party remains committed to the five-party coalition and the government program. Local observers consider it likely that the present coalition will continue.
The previous center-right government led by the then centrist Prime Minister Juha Sipila had pursued pro-business policies.
The stepdown of a prime minister means the technical resignation of the whole cabinet. In line with Finnish practice, President Sauli Niinisto asked Rinne and his cabinet to continue working as caretaker.
Within an hour of the resignation, two social democratic politicians - Chairman of the Social Democratic Parliamentary Group Antti Lindtman and Minister for Transport and Communication Sanna Marin - announced their "availability" for the post.
There could be other candidates as well. The party is to decide on Dec. 12 who will be the new prime minister.
On Tuesday afternoon, several leading SDP parliamentarians backed Sanna Marin. If elected, Marin, 34, would be youngest prime minister in Finland ever.
Even though the present coalition is likely to continue, a formal round of negotiations with all parties will be carried out. The five parties in the coalition are the Social Democratic Party, the Center Party, the Green League, the Left Alliance, and the Swedish People's Party.
Interviewed on national television in the evening, both Marin and the centrist leader Katri Kulmuni reaffirmed the party's allocation of ministerial portfolios would remain as it is.
Jussi Halla-aho, chairman of the leading opposition party, the Finns Party, said on Yle that his party does not see it practicable to be in the cabinet. "The current discussion culture is such that no other basis than the current five party coalition is possible," Halla-aho said.
Opposition conservative leader Petteri Orpo said on Yle on Tuesday night that his party would like to be considered as a possible participant in the government.
However, both Marin of the SDP and Kulmuni of the Center were in the same studio and told him that the current base would continue. "We have to disappoint you, Petteri," Marin said.
Rinne told a press conference following his resignation mid-day Tuesday that he would remain chairman of the SDP, and would be interested in re-election in the party's convention next June. "I am not going away from politics," Rinne added.
Rinne said that since entering politics he has adhered to the social democratic values.
Local analysts have noted that the ostensibly pro-labor statements by Rinne had increasingly annoyed the pro-business cohort in the Center Party's parliamentary group.
Rinne is also likely to have an initial role in the building of the new government. In the Finnish practice, the chairman of the largest party handles the initial rounds.
Marin said that Rinne can well be the social democratic representative in the talks until the candidate has been chosen.