By Anne Kauranen and Tarmo Virki
HELSINKI (Reuters) – Finland’s new prime minister – about to become the world’s youngest serving premier – will have a finance minister two years her junior in a new women-led coalition cabinet, party officials said on Monday.
Sanna Marin, 34, from the dominant Social Democrats, was chosen by her party as the sole candidate for prime minister on Sunday. Centre Party chief Katri Kulmuni, 32, will get the finance post when the new cabinet is officially nominated on Tuesday, party members said.
Finland’s government resigned last week after the Centre Party said it had lost confidence in Social Democrat Prime Minister Antti Rinne over his handling of a postal strike.
The five parties in power – four of them led by women – decided to stay in coalition and continue with the same programs, but said there would be a reshuffle.
Marin will take over in the middle of labor unrest and a wave of strikes which will halt production at some of Finland’s largest companies from Monday. The Confederation of Finnish Industries estimates the strikes will cost the companies a combined 500 million euros ($550 million) in lost revenue.
RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE FAN
Marin has had a swift rise in Finnish politics since becoming head of the city council of her industrial hometown of Tampere at the age of 27.
“I myself have never thought about my age or my gender, but rather about the issues for which I took on politics and about the reasons for which we were trusted in the elections, the former transport minister told public broadcaster YLE after being picked as the prime minister candidate by her party.
Political scientist Jenni Karimaki of Turku University said the new government reflected what voters had wanted in last April’s election, with many new young women and men voted into parliament.
“There are more women in the parliament’s composition than ever before…Voters and citizens wish to see more women in top positions, bearing even the heaviest responsibilities the society can offer,” she told Reuters.
Finland was one of the first country in Europe to give women voting rights back in 1906 and the first country in the world to vote women to parliament in 1907. Marin will be the third female to head the government.
“For the world it’s interesting that they are young, and that they are all female. For Finland, this is not a sensation,” said political commentator Risto Uimonen.
Marin, who has spoken about growing up in a disadvantaged family, is a left-winger within her party and a strong defender of Finland’s generous welfare state.
A long-time fan of alternative metal band Rage Against The Machine, she has said she “dreams of free daycare” for all to add to Finland’s public education, which is already free of charge from primary school to university.
The new government, consisting of 12 female and 7 male ministers according to media reports, will be nominated on Tuesday.
The Centre Party’s Kulmuni, who previously held the more junior position of Minister of Economic Affairs, replaces Mika Lintila as finance minister. She took over as the head of the Centre Party from ex-prime minister Juha Sipila in September.
Green Party leader Maria Ohisalo, 34, will continue as interior minister, the Left Alliance’s chairwoman Li Andersson, 32, as education minister and the Swedish People’s Party’s Anna-Maja Henriksson, 55, as justice minister.
Rinne will remain the Social Democrats leader at least until he chairs the party’s conference in June.
Centre Party said it removed Antti Rinne over his handling of a two-week postal strike which spread to other industries.
“We had to blow the whistle and calm down the worsening situation. I explain this with the chance to move ahead on important topics,” Kulmuni said on social media on Monday.
(This story has been refiled to clarify in 1st and 2nd para that Marin was nominated as PM candidate by her own party on Sunday and will be officially nominated on Tuesday.)
(Reporting by Anne Kauranen and Tarmo Virki; Editing by Toby Chopra and Andrew heavens)