Image Credit: Demarit/flickr
On 10 December, Sanna Marin of the Social Democratic Party was appointed as the Prime Minister of Finland. Marin’s political career took a major leap in 2012, when she was elected to the City Council of Tampere at the age of 27. She then became second deputy chairperson of the Social Democratic Party in 2014, and Minister of Transport and Communications in June 2019. Earlier this month, she was nominated to succeed Antti Rinne who lost the confidence of the Centre party for mishandling a postal strike and then consequently resigned from his position.
Marin’s background of being a young, female, “rainbow child” has brought additional attention to her recent appointment to the weighty position. Raised by a single-mother who later committed to a same-sex relationship, she came from a modest socio-economic background. She was also the first person in her family to attend university.
The newly elected Prime Minister is leading a coalition government that consists of female party leaders, the majority of whom are in their thirties. Marin’s cabinet consists of twelve women and seven men. She is one of five females of the 28 European Union leaders, and this places Finland at the top for the highest female share in the EU, with 63%.
Despite the international attention she has gained, Marin firmly stated that she had “never thought about [her] age or gender”. Instead she directed focus to the issues which drew her into politics and about the reasons for which they were trusted in the elections.
Nonetheless, her background has certainly attracted substantial international attention. Her socio-economic upbringing has empowered Finnish citizens as her financial situation and personal life appear relatable. Some believe that it will be inspiring for children to know that the prime minister can be ‘ordinary’, with a similar background to that of their own. Marin’s youth was a crucial factor in electoral competition. It helped the party to portray a modernised image as her effective use social media further helped the crowd warm to her. Feminist commentators have celebrated Marin’s success as a step towards a promising future of gender equality.
However, others are more critical. As the coalition is dominated by women and most party leaders are young, the parties are becoming similar. Marin’s age and gender is being raised as an issue by some social democrats. The majority of voters are over the age of thirty, and they fear the possibility of losing the support of the more conservative members. Despite the glamorous attention, Marin’s government still faces the challenge of overcoming the generation gap and rebuilding trust with the Finnish citizens.
Marin confidently affirmed “we have promised change. Now we need action. I believe that trust will return through action.” With her utmost priority on climate change, equality and social welfare, many are anxious to see how the world’s youngest Prime Minister will move Finland forward.