Finland is setting world records as a 34 Years old women assumes an important role in the country as the youngest Prime Minister
Sanna Marin is becoming the world’s youngest prime minister, and her country’s youngest ever, at a difficult time – as Finland is hit by strikes and populist nationalism looms over its politics.
Her new finance minister is said to be even younger. Katri Kulmuni, 32, is one of four other female party leaders in the five-party ruling centre-left coalition. Only one of them is over 35.
Their appointments are an attempt to inject some new blood into a demanding body politic as their parties’ flounder in the polls, just six months after election victory.
“Politics is getting harder,” says Kristina Tolkki, a political journalist from Finland’s national broadcaster YLE. “We need some younger people who can be there 24/7, some fresh faces, always ready to react and not say anything stupid.”
The new government is also set to have 12 females and seven male ministers, a high gender ratio even for a country which in 1907 became the first in the world to elect women to parliament.
Sanna Marin comes from a modest background.
Her parents split up when she was very young and in her early years her mother raised her alone. The family faced financial problems.
But her mother had always been supportive and made her believe she could do anything she wanted, she was the first person in her family to finish high school and go to university.
Through the ranks, Ms Marin went into politics at the age of 20 and two years later was already running for a council seat in Tampere, a city north of Helsinki.
She wasn’t elected, but within just five years she had not just won a seat but become council leader, aged just 27.
She rose quickly through the ranks of the Social Democrats (SDP), Finland’s main centre-left party, becoming an MP in 2015.
She is seen as being a left-winger in the party, and a strong advocate of Finland’s welfare state.
Kristina Tolkki says her rise to the top was almost inevitable.
“I met her at a ladies’ sauna night some years ago and asked her if she was going to be leader,” she says. “She just looked at me as if to say – are you even asking me this?”
As an MP she quickly caught the attention of party leader Antti Rinne, becoming his deputy and essentially his favourite.
Last winter, Mr Rinne fell ill with pneumonia on holiday and was later diagnosed with coronary thrombosis, meaning he was out of action as his party geared up for an election campaign.
This was a chance for Ms Marin, then still only a first-term MP, to shine. After several months with her at the helm, Mr Rinne returned from sick leave to lead his party to victory.