December 3, 2019 / 9:20 AM / 11 days ago

CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-Finnish PM expected to quit after coalition partner says it no longer trusts him

(Corrects date of election to April in last paragraph.)

HELSINKI, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Finland’s Centre Party, part of the five-party coalition government, said on Tuesday it had lost confidence in Social Democrat Prime Minister Antti Rinne, a move that looks likely to force him to resign.

Finnish broadcaster YLE, citing unnamed sources, said Rinne would resign later in the day. The tabloid Iltalehti, also citing unnamed sources, said Rinne would hand in his resignation before a debate in parliament due to begin at 1200 GMT.

Rinne’s government has been widely criticised over its handling of a two-week strike at Finland’s state postal service, Posti. The strike spread to the national airline, Finnair , and to other industries. It was settled last week.

Rinne said late on Monday he wanted the Centre Party to state whether it continued to support him or not. The Centre Party suggested that should have been clear.

“This was third time we told him,” Antti Kurvinen, the party’s parliamentary group leader, told reporters. “We told him twice yesterday and now.”

“Losing confidence” is not a formal procedure, like a vote of no confidence, and was not directed at the Social Democrats but specifically at Rinne. On Monday, Centre Party chairwoman Katri Kulmuni said her party wanted to remain in the coalition, but questioned Rinne’s role in the strike.

“The Prime Minister is a person whom the (Centre Party) parliamentary group and party chairs do not trust,” Kulmuni said.

Centre Party is unlikely to push for a new election. It and coalition allies are trailing in the polls and could lose ground to the nationalist Finns Party. The Finns came second in last April’s election, just behind Rinne’s Social Democrats. (Reporting by Anne Kauranen and Tarmo Virki; writing by Simon Johnson; editing by Niklas Pollard and Catherine Evans)

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