December 10, 2019 / 12:24 PM / 2 months ago

Finland's young PM promises stability, and to keep posting on Instagram

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Social Democrat Sanna Marin said on Tuesday she would restore stability to Finland and keep using social media - but with care - after being sworn in as the world’s youngest prime minister at the helm of a government led by women.

Social democrats minister Sanna Marin speaks to the media after she was elected as the new Prime Minister of Finland in the session of the Finnish Parliament in Helsinki, Finland, December 10, 2019. Lehtikuva/Heikki Saukkomaa via REUTERS

Marin, 34, won a confidence vote in parliament, with 99 in favor and 70 against, and will head a coalition government in which four of the five parties are led by women and 12 of the 19 members of the new cabinet are women.

A former transport minister, she takes over during a wave of labor unrest and strikes that have halted production at some of Finland’s largest companies for three days.

Marin said recreating trust between the coalition partners would be one of her first tasks after her predecessor, Antti Rinne, lost their confidence over his handling of a postal strike and resigned last week.

“This is our opportunity to tell who we Finns are and what kind of country Finland is,” Marin told reporters in the Finnish capital, Helsinki. “The government’s responsibility is to create stability in society.”

One challenge is likely to be defending the views of her leftist Social Democrats against the Centre Party, which wants action to boost employment to pay for the costly welfare state.

Marin did not give details of how she would recreate trust but said: “It demands discussion, a direct one.”

Defending her frequent use of social media, she said: “I present a younger generation but of course, when it comes to social media or Instagram, I think that I’m an individual, a person, a real person even though I’m a prime minister.”

“So I won’t change the way I behave. Of course I have to be careful in what I say,” said Marin, who posted pictures of herself pregnant and later with her child, now two, on Instagram.

She made no reference to other leaders, such as U.S. President Donald Trump, who frequently use social media and sometimes attract criticism over their online comments.

ADVICE FROM YOUNG AND OLD

The head of the Centre Party, Katri Kulmuni, 32, becomes finance minister, Green Party leader Maria Ohisalo, 34, continues as interior minister and the Left Alliance’s chairwoman, Li Andersson, 32, remains education minister.

“Finland has truly taken the gender issues to the next level,” Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Union’s executive Commission, said in a tweet congratulating Marin.

The Social Democrats came out on top in an election on April 14 for the first time in 20 years but with only 17.7 percent of the vote.

The previous coalition resigned after failing to push through a healthcare reform and confidence in politicians has been hit by quarrels between the increasingly fragmented parties, under growing pressure from the nationalist Finns Party.

Slideshow (5 Images)

“I’m proud that we have a young female prime minister. I think that is a good thing and a step in the right direction for sure,” said a student from the city of Espoo who gave her name only as Heini.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, at 94 the world’s oldest serving premier, offered Marin some advice.

“While we believe in the idealism of young people, it is important also for them to consider the experience of the old people,” he told Reuters. “Then there will be a combination of the two, and that would be good.”

Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Additional reporting by Tarmo Virki, Gabriela Baczynska and Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Peter Graff and Timothy Heritage

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