Finland is to get the world’s youngest serving prime minister this week after the Social Democrats elected 34-year-old Sanna Marin to head the leftwing coalition government.
All five parties in the government are now led by women, with four of them in their thirties, a record for Finland. Ms Marin, currently the transport minister, will become the youngest prime minister in Finnish history when she is approved by parliament later this week.
Ms Marin takes over from Antti Rinne, who lasted just six months as prime minister before resigning last Wednesday due to a coalition rift over his handling of a postal strike.
The other four parties in the coalition have pledged to continue in government under the new prime minister, but Ms Marin faces a struggle to smooth ruffled feathers and persuade voters who are increasingly backing the rightwing opposition parties.
“There’s a lot of work to be done to rebuild trust,” Ms Marin said late on Sunday night, after being selected by 61 members of the Social Democrat party council.
The Social Democrats and other coalition partners lag badly behind the nationalist Finns in opinion polls. The Finns this month reached a record score of 24 per cent while the main centre-right party, the National Coalition, is at 19 per cent. The Social Democrats are polling at 13 per cent, slightly ahead of coalition partners Centre party at 11 per cent, according to the latest survey by broadcaster Yle.
Recent Finnish governments have all struggled with the predicament of how to combine the Nordic country’s generous welfare state with the most rapidly-ageing population in the EU, which is putting a strain on finances. Restive trade unions are also putting pressure on for pay increases, just as economists worry about a slowdown in economic growth.
Ms Marin, who was raised by a single mother and was the first in her family to attend university before becoming head of the city council of Tampere for four years, filled in for Mr Rinne earlier this year when the 57-year-old had to take time off before the elections due to health problems.
“I have never thought about my age or gender; I think of the reasons I got into politics and those things for which we have won the trust of the electorate,” said Ms Marin, who also admitted the government’s path would not be “easy”.
The other leaders of parties in the coalition government are: 32-year-old Katri Kulmuni of Centre; Li Andersson, 32, for the Left Alliance; 34-year-old Maria Ohisalo of the Greens; and Anna-Maja Henriksson, 55, of the Swedish People’s party.