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Matti Taneli Vanhanen

Assumed office 
24 June 2003
President Tarja Halonen
Deputy Antti Kalliomäki
Eero Heinäluoma
Jyrki Katainen
Preceded by Anneli J√§√§tteenm√§ki

In office
17 April 2003 ‚Äď 24 June 2003
Prime Minister Anneli J√§√§tteenm√§ki
Preceded by Jan-Erik Enestam
Succeeded by Seppo K√§√§ri√§inen

Member of the Finnish Parliament
for Uusimaa
Assumed office 
22 March 1991

Born 4 November 1955 (1955-11-04) (age 54)
Jyväskylä, Finland
Political party Centre Party
Alma mater University of Helsinki
Profession Political science
Social science

Matti Taneli Vanhanen (About this sound pronunciation ) (born November 4, 1955) is the current Prime Minister of Finland, as well as Chairman of the Keskusta (Centre Party of Finland). In the second half of 2006 he was President of the European Council. In his earlier career he was a journalist.



Vanhanen was born in Jyväskylä, the son of professor Tatu Vanhanen, co-author of IQ and the Wealth of Nations, and Anni Tiihonen.

He studied political science at the University of Helsinki, graduating as a Master of Social Sciences in 1989 [1]. He was chairman of the Centre Party Youth League from 1980 to 1983. He also served as a member of the Espoo City Council from 1981 to 1984. Vanhanen used to work as a journalist. He was an editor (1985‚Äď1988) and editor-in-chief (1988‚Äď1991) at the local newspaper Keh√§sanomat. In a column in Suomenmaa, he strongly condemned the Baltic Star pro-Estonian independence demonstration held in Helsinki in July 1985, calling the demonstration "provocative".[2].

Vanhanen was elected to the Finnish Parliament (Eduskunta) in 1991. As a member of Parliament he was interested in ecological issues. For instance, Vanhanen spoke against the building of a fifth nuclear power plant in 1992, at the same time as serving on the board of electricity corporation Fortum. He served on the Parliamentary Environment Committee 1991‚Äď1995, and was chair of the Parliamentary Grand Committee 2000-2001. He was vice-chair of the Centre Party Parliamentary group 1994‚Äď2001, and Deputy Chairman of the Centre Party 2000‚Äď2003.

Another important topic for Vanhanen was Finland's foreign and security policy. As a specialist on the European Union he was a member of the European Union Constitutional Convention. There he criticized the president of the convention, former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, as authoritarian. Vanhanen has said [1] that he is unenthusiastic about European co-operation, and that he is an "EU pragmatist", so he may be considered a eurosceptic, especially when compared to his EU-enthusiast predecessor Paavo Lipponen.


Vanhanen's first cabinet

Vanhanen resigned from the Constitutional Convention in 2003 when he became Minister of Defense in the cabinet of Prime Minister Anneli Jäätteenmäki. After Jäätteenmäki's resignation, Vanhanen was elected Prime Minister and his first cabinet was formed.

As a politician, Vanhanen is considered to be part of the liberal wing of the old agrarian Central Party, along with the two other Party ministers from Uusimaa region. His government cut the top state income tax rate from 35.5% to 33.5% in 2005 and 32.5% in 2006 (resulting in approximately 55% total tax rate after local government and social security taxes). The corporate tax rate was also lowered to 26% and capital gains to 28% (both formerly 29%), though at the same time dividends were partially made taxable. Vanhanen has said he is willing to continue tax cuts.

Presidential candidate

As the Centre Party candidate, Vanhanen challenged President Tarja Halonen in the 2006 Finnish presidential election. He received 18.6% of the vote, coming third to the National Coalition Party's Sauli Niinistö (24.1%) and Social Democrat and incumbent Tarja Halonen (46.3%), and thus did not qualify for the runoff. Vanhanen expressed his support for Niinistö in the runoff election against his coalition partner's candidate Halonen.

The presidential election, and cooperation between Centre Party and National Coalition Party, proved to be a major strain on the government coalition between the Centre Party and Social Democrats. The flashpoint came in March, when the Centre Party demanded national agricultural subsidies to cover farmers' losses when the Finnish exception in the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy was about to expire. At the end of the crisis Vanhanen told his parliamentary group that taxpayers would cover ninety percent or about 100 million euros in losses.

Vanhanen's second cabinet

After the March 2007 election the Centre Party narrowly remained the largest party after losing four seats. However their coalition partner, the SDP, lost eight seats and the centre-right National Coalition Party gained ten. Vanhanen's second cabinet was formed on a centre-right basis, with minor partners the Green League and the Swedish People's Party.

A scandal involving Vanhanen's second cabinet began rolling in May 2008, after the leader of the Centre Party's parliamentary group Timo Kalli said publicly that he would not reveal information about his campaign finances, because such disclosure was not required. After a media backlash, Kalli gave up his secrecy and listed a group of businessmen known as "Kehittyvien maakuntien Suomi" (KMS; in English, "The Finland of Developing Provinces"), who had financed the Centre Party. Centre Party links with KMS were suspected, as one address of the organisation belonged to a party official. It was later revealed that the organisation had been formed in the Centre Party's general secretary's office.

After the Russian response to the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia, Vanhanen said that Finland would rethink its security.[3]

Vanhanen has proposed raising the retirement age from the current 63 to 65, which is typical in Europe.[4][5][6] His proposal was fiercely opposed by the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (Finnish acronym SAK), which is affiliated with the SDP.[7]


Vanhanen has been characterised as uncharismatic and even boring, which he has attempted to turn to his advantage in tense political situations. Vanhanen is known for being a teetotaler, saying that he does not like the taste of alcohol.[8] He rarely smiles in public.[citation needed] He has been quoted as denying ever taking advice from other persons.[9]

Matti Vanhanen was against the democratic independence movement in the Baltic States during 1980s and supported the communist rule as briefly mentioned above. According to an article by Matti Vanhanen, the differences between capitalism and socialism were insignificant for the history of the Baltic countries and the aspirations for independence and the wishes to change the Soviet system showed an indifference towards the post Second World War reality. For Matti Vanhanen, such attempts were inconsistent with Finnish interests and thus he advocated against allowing any demonstrations to take place in Finland in support of Baltic independence and democracy.[10] According to one commentator, Matti Vanhanen was trying to prevent the independence of Estonia prior to the 1990s. [11]

In 2009, he visited the People's Republic of China and credited the government for being systematic, as well as being able to place clear priorities and to mobilise the required resources to accomplish them. In his opinion, the Western world ought to note the example of China, where policies are implemented rapidly and effectively. [12] He said he was impressed of the progress the country has made in dealing with difficult issues.[13]

Vanhanen married Merja Vanhanen in 1985. They have two children: Annastiina (born 1991) and Juhana (born 1994). Matti Vanhanen and Merja Vanhanen unexpectedly announced their divorce on 6 April 2005, which had political repercussions for the self-styled family man.[citation needed]

Later there were claims in the tabloid press of affairs during and after his marriage. After his divorce, Susan Kuronen (she later changed her last name to Ruusunen) was widely linked to Vanhanen [14] but their relationship broke down.[15] In February 2007, Kuronen released a tell-all book The Prime Minister's Bride, which actually boosted the prime minister's popularity with the public. Tens of thousands of Finns signed an online petition against the book and some bookstores refused to put it on the shelf.[16] Vanhanen sued Kuronen for invasion of privacy in March 2007, following the March elections. The court dismissed all charges against Kuronen about a year later but Vanhanen stated that he was unsatisfied with the outcome and would continue the case in higher courts.

Since ending his dating relationship with Kuronen (Ruusunen), Vanhanen has been dating Sirkka Mertala (see, for example, Vanhanen's Finnish-language Wikipedia biography and the websites of the Finnish daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, and of the Finnish evening tabloids Ilta-Sanomat and Iltalehti).

In a 2006 book commissioned for the presidential elections, Se on ihan Matti, Vanhanen compared the Finnish tabloid press to the KGB and Stasi, former Soviet Union and East German secret police agencies [17].

During the ASEM 2006 meeting in Helsinki, French president Jacques Chirac described Vanhanen, perhaps jokingly, as "the sexiest man in Finland".[18] Vanhanen is about 198cm(6'6"). He is also left-handed [2].

He attended the Bilderberg Group meeting in 2009.[19][20]


See also

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Jan-Erik Enestam
Minister of Defence
Succeeded by
Seppo Kääriäinen
Preceded by
Anneli Jäätteenmäki
Prime Minister of Finland
Preceded by
Wolfgang Sch√ľssel
President of the European Council
Succeeded by
Angela Merkel


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