Source AP ©

Finland's new ruling coalition reserved 12 of its 20 Cabinet posts for women

Finland's new ruling coalition reserved 12 of its 20 Cabinet posts for women, giving the government its first female majority.

But the top ministerial posts of finance, defense and foreign affairs will be occupied by men in Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen's four-party center-right government.

Vanhanen's Center Party allotted five of its eight government posts to women, while the conservatives divided their eight seats equally among men and women.

The Greens picked women for both its seats, and the Swedish People's Party chose a man and a woman for the remaining two posts.

"This looks like a world record," said Jaana Kuusipalo, a political scientist at the University of Tampere. "Some governments have been 50-50, but a 60-percent majority of women is internationally very high."

President Tarja Halonen the country's first female head of state was to appoint the new government officially on Thursday.

The government was formed after national elections in March that also brought 84 women into Parliament, or 42 percent of the 200 seats  a Finnish record. The elections were held 100 years after Finland became the first country to allow women to stand for election.

Announcing the centrist ministers, Vanhanen said he had wanted a government that respected "gender equality."

Earlier Tuesday, Vanhanen who was prime minister in the previous center-left coalition was elected by lawmakers to continue as head of government after leading weeks of talks that resulted in the new coalition.

Not much was expected to change in the shift from center-left to center-right in a country ruled for decades by consensus politics. But the presence of more women could improve their position in society, Kuusipalo said.

"Finnish women might very well now find a stronger, united front in their efforts to get better pay for lower wage-earners like auxiliary nurses," Kuusipalo said. "But, of course, the heavier portfolios have been given to men."

The conservative National Coalition Party leader Jyrki Katainen will be finance minister. His close aide Jyri Hakamies was tapped as defense minister. Another male conservative, Ilkka Kanerva, will be foreign minister.

The only woman chosen for one of the top Cabinet posts was Tuija Brax of the Greens, who will head the Justice Ministry.

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