New Government, Same Programme

The leftleaning social democrat Sanna Marin is the new Finnish prime minister after a rochade within Social Democratic Party.

Finnish prime minister Antti Rinne (SDP) resigned with his government on 3 December 2019. The other main government party, the Centre party, had announced that it has lost confidence to the prime minister. The formal reason for the distrust was the labour conflict in the state postal company and statements of the prime minister around it. However, the elements of distrust accumulated earlier and were linked with too close relationship of Mr Rinne with trade unions and with too little coordination and communication between the main parties in government.

Scandal Around Postal Workers’ Salaries Broke the Camel’s Back

The leadership of the state postal company had decided to move 700 workers to another collective agreement which would have meant the decrease of salaries by 20-40%. The minister responsible on state companies Sirpa Paatero (also SDP) resigned because of this. The prime minister Rinne told that he had stated that the state company cannot use unacceptable methods to reduce costs on the cost of workers and that the leadership of the postal company had not followed these instructions. After a strike the postal workers remained in the former collective agreement.

The main issue, however, was did the prime minister and other social democrat ministers oppose the lowering of the salaries of the postal workers from the very beginning or only after it became public. In a response to a question by a MP of Left Alliance in September, the responsible minister Paatero stated that the state postal company cannot continue with a higher cost structure than its private competitors.

The situation was similar as in summer 2003 when prime minister Anneli Jäätteenmäki from Centre party lost the confidence of Social democratic Party and had to resign[1].

Leftleaning Social Democrat New Prime Minister

The new prime minister was elected as the candidate for prime minister by the SDP party council, on 8 December and elected by parliament on 10 December. In the party council the two candidates were Sanna Marin, the minister of transport and the first vice chairperson of SDP, and Antti Lindtman, the leader of the SDP parliamentary group. Of them Sanna Marin is more leftist, very close to Left Alliance. In an interview in 2015, she told that in her youth she had elected a party between SDP, Left Alliance and Greens: Greens were not acceptable because of their social and economic policy, Left Alliance would be ok on the basis of its programme but it had less experience on the capability to promote its aims with compromise and pragmatism, so the election was SDP[2]. Lindtman is a more centrist social democrat and closer to trade unions. Sanna Marin won the very tight vote in the party council with votes 32 for her and 29 for Lindtman.  

Governmental Rochade

The government will continue in same composition, all the parties in government agree with this. Sirpa Paatero returned to the government as the minister of local government. Antti Rinne took the post of the first deputy speaker of Finnish parliament. The former deputy speaker Tuula Haatainen became the minister of labour, while the minister of labour Timo Harakka became the minister of transport and communications (Marin’s former ministership). Antti Rinne will remain the chairperson of the Social Democratic Party until the party congress in June 2020 when Sanna Marin is likely to become the new chairperson of the party.

Young and Female Government

Sanna Marin is, at the age of 34, the youngest prime minister in Finnish history and at the time of her nomination the youngest prime minister in the world. Also, the chairpersons and the most important minister of most of the other parties in government are women of age of 32-34 years. Only the chairperson of Swedish People’s party Anna-Maja Henriksson is older at the age of 56. Marin has worked in her youth e.g. as a department store cashier, and therefore was criticised by the leader of Estonian populist party Mart Helme as “sales girl”.[3] Sanna Marin has Master’s Degree on Administrative Science (2017, University of Tampere) and she has been MP since 2015 and member of city council of Tampere since 2013. During 2013-2017 she was the chairperson of Tampere city council.[4] After her election to the prime minister post a fake news on plan for a four-day week in Finland spread around the world. Marin had stated in discussion on future visions that shorter working week is a good idea in the future, but it is not in the government programme and is not expected to be real in near future.[5]

Left Alliance continues in the government with two ministers, Li Andersson (minister of education) and Anna-Kaisa Pekonen (minister of social affairs). They have concentrated in their work as minsters and have been outside of political scandals, although this has also reduced their visibility in public. However, the opinion polls of Left Alliance support has remain unchanged and are on the same level as in elections (7.9-8.4%).

[1] Anneli Jäätteenmäki had to resign from prime minister post because when she opposition leader before the election campaign 2003 she had got secret foreign policy documents from a civil servant in president’s administration and used that information in her campaign. She lost the confidence of Social Democratic Party because at the beginning she told she had got the documents unexpectedly and without asking them, which later appeared not to be true.

[2] (in Finnish)


[4] Sanna Marin’s website: