200 Texts to an Erotic Dancer Finnish Foreign Minister Sacked in Text Message Scandal

Finland's foreign minister was sacked on Tuesday after media published suggestive text messages he sent to an erotic dancer. Ilkka Kanerva had sent around 200 messages to the 29-year-old leader of the Scandinavian Dolls dance troupe.
Von Liisa Niveri

Finnish Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva, 60, has been sacked in a scandal over suggestive text messages he sent to an erotic dancer he met on a plane. He will be replaced by Alexander Stubb, a member of the European Parliament.

"Kanerva has shown a great lack of judgment ... he doesn't enjoy the full trust which a minister needs," Jyrki Kateinen, the leader of the conservative National Coalition Party, said.

Kanerva called in sick on Tuesday and wasn't available for a statement. The politician, whose partner is 22 years younger than him, had met 29-year-old dancer Johanna Tukiainen during a flight in January.

In March the dancer sold the minister's messages to the gossip magazine Hymy and caused an uproar. Newspapers published one message in which Kanerva asked Tukiainen: "Would you like to do it in an exotic place? Where could it be?"

Kanerva came under fire mainly because he had already received an official rebuke in 2005, when he was deputy speaker of the parliament, for bombarding two models with text messages.

Hymy's editor-in-chief Esko Tulosto told SPIEGEL ONLINE: "Kanerva initially told members of his party that the messages only concerned official matters. And that he only answered the text messages that he had been sent." The main problem, he said, wasn't the content of the text messages but the political credibility of the foreign minister.

Finland has been transfixed by the scandal over the last three weeks. "I think Kanerva has an obsessive-compulsive disorder, an addiction that needs to be treated," well-known Finnish author Anja Snellman told Finnish television.

Kanerva is a charismatic politician and owed his popularity in part to a colorful speaking style in which he often used sporting metaphors. "I never really worked," he once said in an interview. "To be honest I can't imagine what job I could do. In a pinch I could become a radio sports commentator. "

The Finns are traditionally very patient with their politicians. "We spend all year dealing with the private trials and tribulations of our ministers," a former government official said last week.

Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, 52, was the subject of a kiss-and-tell memoir by a former mistress he broke up with by sending her the text message: "It's over."

Vanhanen's popularity rose after this revelation, but Kanerva's texting has proved his undoing because it has raised the hackles of Finland's long suffering women.

In an internal review conducted at the start of 2008, Finland's parliament found that a surprisingly large number of women have been harassed in parliament itself. In 40 percent of the cases, the perpetrators were lawmakers. The parliament has responded by drawing up new gender equality rules.

"Kanerva represents the old type of Finnish politician, the type who thinks he can do as he pleases," health expert Kristiina Patja told SPIEGEL ONLINE. And why haven't women done something about this before? "Because they were afraid of the consequences."

Kanerva's political demise was caused in part by a surge in protest from Finnish women who no longer regard that kind of behavior as tolerable.

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