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Finland just got the world’s youngest serving PM but she’s got a lot on her plate

Sanna Marin, the 34-year old former transport minister, will head a coalition of five parties each led by women. 

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New Delhi: As the head of an all women-led coalition government, Sanna Marin, 34, is set to become the youngest serving prime minister when she is sworn in later this week. 

The Finnish Social Democrat secured the top post after the resignation of her predecessor, Antti Rinne, who resigned after just six months in office. 

Marin beat main rival Antti Lindtman 32-29 in a party council vote Sunday to replace  Rinne.  

Rinne resigned last week after the Social Democrat Party’s key coalition partner, the Centre Party, lost confidence in him over his handling of a postal workers’ strike. He held the top post for just six months and is likely to be handed the post of parliament’s vice speaker.

The new government enjoys a comfortable majority of 117 seats out of a total of 200. 

With her victory, Marin joins New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, 39, and Ukranine’s Oleksiy Honcharuk, 35, as world leaders in their 30s.

“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 the former transport minister. 

She, however, has her work cut out in leading a five-party coalition and curbing the ongoing labour unrest. 

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A women-led government

With Marin at the helm, the four other parties in the coalition government — Centre Party, Left Alliance, Green League and the Swedish People’s Party of Finland — have agreed to continue their alliance and follow the policy programme envisaged in June. Leaders of the five parties are all women, four of whom are younger than 35.

They are all set to land plum posts.

The Centre Party chief Katri Kulmuni is set to take over as finance minister when the full coalition cabinet is appointed this week. As Finnish conventions go, she will also function as deputy prime minister and oversee the budget. Like Marin, she has replaced an older male minister, 53-year-old Mika Lintila, who is expected to be demoted to Minister of Economic Affairs.

The Left Alliance’s chairwoman Li Andersson, 32, will likely continue as education minister. In the April general elections, her party secured 16 seats, up from 12 in the previous election, under her leadership.

The Swedish People’s Party’s leader Anna-Maja Henriksson will carry on as justice minister, a post she has held from 2011 to 2015 and from June 2019 onwards. Henriksson was made the first female leader of her party in 2016 and in her acceptance speech had said, “I am glad to see that my party made this step towards more equality in our society.”

Green leader Maria Ohisalo will continue as Minister of Interior akin to Home Minister, overseeing matters of internal security, policing, border control and migration issues. The 34-year-old has been vocal about a more compassionate asylum seeking system, which was overloaded in 2015 and 2016 when Finland faced an influx of almost 32,500 people fleeing war-torn countries in the Middle East.

The coalition’s main objectives include more public spending on welfare and infrastructure and making Finland carbon neutral by 2035. 

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Who is Marin?

Marin entered Finnish politics at the age of 27 as the head of the city council of Tampere, her hometown. 

In 2015, she was made vice chairwoman of the Social Democrat party and until recently served as the transport and communications minister. In January this year, she had a taste of leadership by stepping in for Rinne, when he was on extended sick leave.

In her blog, she has talked about being raised by a single mother and being the first of her family to attend university. In November 2016, she blogged about populist movements and aired concerns that Europe was entering “a dark time”. Climate change and the loss of biodiversity are major problems in today’s world, she said in her blog. 

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What’s in store for her

Marin’s first task will be in rebuilding confidence across party lines of her coalition but also, in handling ongoing labour unrest that Rinne failed to quell. The Confederation of Finnish Industries estimates that the strikes have cost companies a total of 500 million euros ($550 million) in revenue, says a Reuters report.

Lawmakers are likely to approve Marin’s appointment and her new government’s quickly so she can represent Finland at the EU leaders’ summit in Brussels starting Thursday. 

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