Finnish PM Tapped In Wake of Scandal

HELSINKI, Finland -- A former journalist and EU specialist was named as Finland's new prime minister on Tuesday, replacing the first woman to hold the post after two months when she was toppled by a leaked document scandal.

Parliament voted 109-67 for the Center Party's Matti Vanhanen in a widely expected move, as Finland tried to restore political harmony after a scandal that embarrassed a nation that prizes itself on its squeaky-clean politics.

"It has been an exceptional situation and a dramatic day," a calm and soft-spoken Vanhanen, defense minister in the last, short-lived administration, told reporters after the vote.

"For its part, the Center will give its all so that the cooperation between the three parties in the coalition government goes well," the 47-year-old said.

Vanhanen fills the vacuum left by Anneli Jaatteenmaki, who stepped down as head of the European Union-member nation of 5.2 million people last week amid allegations she used secret leaked information on Iraq to help win elections in March.

His nomination was to be confirmed by President Tarja Halonen later Tuesday, when Vanhanen was to name his Cabinet.

The new government will likely still be a coalition of the Center, Finland's largest party, the Social Democrats and the Swedish People's Party, representing Finlad's Swedish-speaking minority.

The SDP, pushed into second place in the March election, said it would put the Jaatteenmaki scandal behind it. "Now it is time for reconciliation and cooperation and the Social Democrats are ready," said Jaatteenmaki's predecessor Paavo Lipponen, parliamentary speaker.

Vanhanen emerged as the favorite for prime minister after Jaatteenmaki's resignation, and may also follow her as head of the party after she gave up the position on Tuesday.

"I am sorry ... I made mistakes. I could assume others have sometimes made mistakes as well," a defiant Jaatteenmaki told the meeting. "[But] what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

A teetotaler who hails from the Center Party heartland of Jyvaskyla, Vanhanen is seen by some as the right person for the job, with his seemingly bland political personality an asset given the current turbulent circumstances.

His first task will be to repair the damage done by Jaatteenmaki, whose departure ended the shortest government tenure for almost 60 years in a country renowned for its technological prowess, as home to mobile phone giant Nokia.