Monday, May 20, 2024

Mint Explainer: Finland’s PM, who steered her country to NATO, loses election

Finland’s dynamic young Prime Minister Sanna Marin will likely lose office after her coalition was defeated in the country’s general elections. Sanna shot to prominence as one of Europe’s youngest leaders when she took office in December 2019. Mint breaks down why she captured global attention and the implications of her defeat.

  • Sanna Marin took office at the helm of a coalition of five parties in 2019. At just 34, she was one of the youngest female leaders in Europe. The photogenic young leader gained considerable star power in Finland and abroad as an example of the new generation of world leaders. Her social media savvy also won her a considerable following online.
  • Despite the fragility of her governing coalition, Marin steered her country through the covid pandemic. Another female leader, Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, also shot to global prominence for her government’s role in stemming the spread of the infection.
  • Marin’s other major legacy was declaring Finland’s intention to join NATO. The country shares a border with Russia and has had to consider Russian sensitivities in its foreign policy for decades. However, after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Marin condemned the invasion and began formal proceedings for Finland to join NATO. After gaining clearances from holdouts like Turkey and Hungary, the country is all set to join the union.
  • The rapturous welcome Marin received at international conferences and events turned her into one of the world’s more prominent elected leaders, setting her apart from her national and international counterparts.
  • However, her tenure was not free of controversy. In 2022, a video of Marin partying with friends sparked a global backlash. Some accused her of frivolity and acting in a manner unbecoming of a national leader. Others, however, lined up behind Marin. The controversy raised searching questions around the conduct of women in power and the higher scrutiny female leaders face compared to their male counterparts.
  • As Finland’s general elections neared, it became clear that Marin’s popularity would not be enough to guarantee victory. Marin, who leads a centre-left party, was criticised by conservatives for a sharp increase in debt levels caused by spending during the pandemic years.
  • Ultimately, the centre-right conservatives, led by Petteri Arpo, won 48 seats and became the largest party in Finland’s 200-seat parliament. A populist party, known as the Finns, took second place with 46 seats. Marin’s Social Democrats, which increased its seat tally, finished third.
  • While the results will kick off a period of negotiations to form the next coalition government it seems likely that Marin will have to step down after nearly three and a half years as prime minister – just months after Ardern stepped down as prime minister of New Zealand.

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