January 18, 2021
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Finland's Sanna Marin Becomes World's Youngest Prime Minister At 34

Sanna Marin, will also have another unusual accomplishment. She will be heading a coalition with four other parties that are all led by women — three of whom are in their early 30s

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Finland's Sanna Marin Becomes World's Youngest Prime Minister At 34
Finland's Sanna Marin
Finland's Sanna Marin Becomes World's Youngest Prime Minister At 34

Finland's parliament has chosen Sanna Marin as the country's new prime minister, making the 34-year-old the world's youngest sitting head of government.

Member of the ruling Social Democratic Party, Marin has become the youngest-serving leader of a government in the world, beating out Ukraine's 35-year-old prime minister, Oleksiy Honcharuk, when she takes the reins of the country, most likely on Tuesday.

Marin, who was previously the Finnish Minister of Transport and Communications, narrowly won over Antti Lindtman, the 37-year-old chairman of the Social Democratic Parliamentary Group, in a vote of 32-29, Xinhua news agency reported.

The vote was carried out at the Social Democratic Party Council on Sunday evening. The results of the vote were announced in a nationally-televised broadcast.

Marin is heading a five-party, centre-left coalition. The four other parties in the coalition are headed by women — three of whom are in their early 30s; 32-year-old Katri Kulmuni of the Center Party; the Left Alliance's Li Andersson, 32; Maria Ohisalo, the 34-year-old leader of the Greens; and the head of the Swedish People's Party, Anna-Maja Henriksson, who at 55 is the oldest.

The coalition enjoys a comfortable majority of 117 seats in the 200-seat Eduskunta, or Parliament.

Elina Penttinen, a lecturer in gender studies at the University of Helsinski, said the rise of so many women is “exceptional” not only by the standards of the wider world, where older men hold most power but even by the standards of Finland, which regularly ranks as one of the best countries in the world in terms of gender equality.

“Here it seems pretty amazing, too,” she said.

The Social Democrats emerged as the strongest party after Finland's election in April. Antti Rinne, the incumbent prime minister whom Marin is replacing, stepped down last week amid political turmoil caused by a strike of postal workers.

Rinne says he plans to continue as the Social Democrats' leader until a party congress next summer.

Penttinen described Marin as a talented politician known for her leadership skills whose progressive programme stresses combating climate change, protecting the country's famous social protections like health care and reaching out to young people.

Finland, like much of the West, has seen a rise in right-wing populists and the nationalist Finns Party did well in April election, though centrist and left-wing parties won most votes and together could govern in the multi-party coalition.

“I hope it's a sign of more change to come against populists, especially in the age of Trump and populism," Penttinen said.

Marin joins a small group of female leaders who have sought to counteract the rise of populism. That group includes Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova, 46, a progressive whose election this year bucked the trend of populism and nationalism in Central Europe.

And like New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern — who is 39 — Marin is a new mother, having given birth to a daughter last year.

Marin was herself raised by a single mother. In her biography, she has described feeling discriminated against when her mother was in a relationship with another woman.

Marin will be Finland's third female government leader. Women have been present in politics in the Nordic region for decades and today represent half of the party leaders in Sweden. Four of Denmark's nine parties are headed by women.

Mette Frederiksen became Denmark's prime minister in June, while Erna Solberg has been Norway's head of government since 2013.

Iceland's Vigdis Finnbogadottir was the first woman to be democratically elected as head of state by voters when she defeated three men for the presidency in 1980.

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