The text messages published by Hymy magazine sent by Minister for Foreign Affairs Ilkka Kanerva (Nat. Coalition Party) to dancer Johanna Tukiainen proved to be more innocuous than had been expected by the public at large, or feared within the National Coalition Party. Many will wonder why the confidence of National Coalition Party chairman Jyrki Katainen in Kanerva came to an end right now, when the messages were made public.
Equally, one can wonder why Katainen stretched out the gauntlet that Kanerva had to run for as long as he did. In his interview with [the on-line publication] Verkkouutiset, Katainen notes that the decision to let Kanerva go is not linked with any single issue. The question is that of the whole.
Katainen defends the delay by saying that he wanted to consider the matter thoroughly and to get all of the information from Kanerva himself, and not from the media.
On Monday evening, Katainen got the information. It led to an end in the trust.
The decision-making bodies of the National Coalition Party meet this morning. The name of Finland's future Minister for Foreign Affairs will be known already today.*
According to some speculations, Minister of Defence Jyri Häkämies is to be the new Foreign Minister. He would be replaced by MP Jari Koskinen.
Other solutions are also possible. Jyri Katainen himself is interested in foreign policy. Häkämies could easily take his place in the Ministry of Finance.
The problem in this is that the Minister for Foreign Affairs has to travel very much. The fact that Finland now holds the chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) increases the normal travel burden even more. This would not work well for a party leader.
The post of Minister for Foreign Affairs can also be filled from outside the government.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in the online version of Helsingin Sanomat on 1.4.2008
*This commentary was written before the announcement came that MEP Alexander Stubb would replace Ilkka Kanerva as Minister for Foreign Affairs.