Finnish Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva was forced to quit his job on Tuesday after he admitted bombarding a stripper with mobile phone text messages of a sexual nature, his party announced on Tuesday.
The conservative National Coalition Party appointed Alexander Stubb, a 40-year-old member of the European parliament, as his successor, after weeks of speculation about Kanerva's private life and his political future.
Party leader Jyrki Katainen finally withdrew his support for Kanerva on Tuesday, saying the SMS scandal had tainted the foreign minister's credibility.
"Kanerva has not kept his promise to not let his private life interfere with his political" life, Katainen told reporters in Helsinki.
Kanerva, 60, had made headlines for several weeks after he sent around 200 text messages to 29-year-old erotic dancer Johanna Tukiainen, whom he met at the end of January, and her sister.
The minister had repeatedly denied sending the messages, but finally admitted to doing so on March 10 on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels.
The gossip magazine Hymy on Tuesday published 24 of his SMS messages, some of which contained flirtatious and sexually suggestive content.
One of them read: "Do you want to do it in some exciting place? What could it be?"
Kanerva, a father of two daughters, made no public statements on Tuesday. His ministry said he was "on sick leave and his program has been canceled."
Tukiainen, who told media she was tricked into providing Hymy with the text messages and who previously tried to get a Helsinki court to block their publication, told Finnish news agency STT she felt sorry for Kanerva.
"If he has to be fired because he sent humoristic messages with a twinkle in his eye at the end of stressful work day, then I think that's wrong," she said.
"I've felt sorry for him the whole time. I was also of the opinion that the messages shouldn't be published," she added.
Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen told YLE television meanwhile that "the decision was severe and sad," noting that Kanerva had "strictly followed the government program."
In Finland, a party in the coalition can announce a change to the cabinet without involving the prime minister.
This is not the first time Kanerva, considered a colorful figure, has found himself at the centre of controversy.
He was involved in a similar scandal three years ago after he sent text messages of a sexual nature to several young models.
In January, he also made headlines when he snubbed an important European Union meeting in Brussels on Kosovo and the Middle East because of his 60th birthday.
He was feted in grand style by his constituency of Turku, where a large reception and concert were held in his honor.
Kanerva was considered a political heavyweight and was seen as a possible candidate to take over the Finnish presidency at the end of Tarja Halonen's term in 2012.
A member of parliament for the National Coalition Party for 33 years, he has held four cabinet member posts. He was appointed foreign minister in the center-right coalition government in March 2007.
Both the prime minister and the head of Kanerva's party had initially stood behind him in the latest scandal, but the publication of the SMSs on Tuesday cranked up the pressure on his departure.
This is the first time a foreign minister has had to step down because of a personal scandal in Finland.
Kanerva's successor, Stubb, was appointed because of "his experience in foreign policy and the European Union," Katainen said.
Stubb was previously a counsellor on institutional affairs at Finland's permanent representation to the EU in Brussels. He also served as an adviser to the former president of the European Commission Romano Prodi.
"I am excited about this nomination, it is a new challenge and I take it in a humble way," Stubb said.© AFP