In the post-industrial city center of Tampere, chimneys rise uselessly above red bricks and snow-covered sidewalks. 180 km north of Helsinki, in Finland’s third largest city, the factories no longer smoke, except for a cardboard factory. But in preparation for the legislative elections of April 2, the social democratic cauldron is still bubbling, where Prime Minister Sanna Marin forged her first weapons.
“He’s our superstar”
To be convinced of this, just go down the river to the Lenin Museum. In 1905, Lenin and Stalin first shook hands in this building, at a secret meeting of the Social Democratic Workers’ Party of Russia. On the fifth floor, the Sosialidemokraattinen still have their offices there. Activists find instructions and campaign material there.
Marko Asell has left his MP costume to endorse the colors of the party. Wicker basket in hand, this broad-shouldered blond offers chocolates and matchboxes bearing his image. After all, why not maintain this notoriety acquired twenty-seven years ago, when he won the silver medal at the Atlanta Olympics? The former wrestler had even tried reality TV for a while. Nothing to do, however, with the debauchery of T-shirts and cloth bags stamped “Sanna”, distributed throughout the country. And too bad if it’s only in Tampere that you can vote for the prime minister. “She is our superstar, known throughout Europe, thanks to her, Finland shines on the international scene”, declaims the ex-athlete.
On December 10, 2019, at just 34 years old, Sanna Marin became the world’s youngest elected leader. The Tampere region had never produced a prime minister. The child of the country now finds himself invited to Kiev by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in the same way as the greats of this world, hailed both for his good management of the pandemic and of the candidacy for NATO in reaction to the Russian threat. Some of her European colleagues would one day see her presiding over the European Commission in Brussels.
The weak point of the deficit
Still a prophetess in her country, Sanna Marin? Not for all. In Tampere, as elsewhere in Finland, an “electoral village” has been set up in the main square. A democratic forum where passers-by are in direct contact with available candidates at the foot of their wooden cabin. This year, the development was preceded by calls for good citizenship.
“Here, Sanna Marin, we don’t see her. She is more an icon of social networks than a prime minister close to people and their economic difficulties, ”attacks the candidate of the national coalition (right), Jocka Träskbäck.
This is the weak point of Sanna Marin’s balance sheet. Finland entered recession in the last quarter of 2022, with inflation at 8.5%. Jocka Träskbäck hammers home the arguments of its leader, Peterri Orpo, one of the three candidates given around 20% with Sanna Marin and her far-right rival, Riikka Purra. A serious contender for the post of prime minister.
“The Social Democrats are going to have to explain how, in times of crisis and exploding costs, we should be working four days a week, spending 11 billion euros more each year, all without touching taxes”, criticizes this website editor.
Be careful not to underestimate Sanna Marin, whom nothing predestined for the highest functions. Nor his humble origins. Nor his early family environment. When she was a child, her parents divorced because of her father’s drinking problems. His mother has rebuilt his life with a woman. Growing up in a “rainbow family” earned him recriminations at school. His results were up and down until high school, also due to a lack of work, by his own admission.
It was only at university that she started working, while doing odd jobs, to earn a master’s degree in management science. Aino Tiihonen, an expert in political science at the University of Tampere, attended her on the benches of the university. “We took the same classes, and she frankly stood out already at the time, in her way of turning her questions which challenged the teacher’s knowledge. Skills that allowed her to chair the council of the town hall, then to win a first mandate as a deputy, in 2015.
This time, the social democrat will rub shoulders with Riikka Purra, the first woman to lead the Party of Finns, who tells whoever wants the origin of her anti-immigration positions, when, as a teenager, she walked in the streets of Tampere. “Men sexually harassed us, followed us, made different noises, and then we ran away. »
The rag of insecurity is frightening: many Finns do not want to take the road to neighboring Sweden, plagued by gangs… even if they are very far from there.
On the right, the other female figure
For Riikka Purra, it is time to give priority to nationals, in a country which has 470,000 foreigners, but which could welcome more than a million by 2050. His profile shakes up the codes in an 80% party male. This 45-year-old vegetarian stands out for her ecological sensitivity. She even boasts of having voted for the Greens at the age of 20.
“His conservatism, his position on transgender issues, also attract women who could vote for small parties like the Christian Democrats”, underlines Tommi Kotonen, expert at the University of Jyväskylä. In Tampere, Marika Puolimatka, candidate for the Party of Finns, has the profile. “In the midst of a crisis and in a difficult period, it takes a stable and unwavering woman, who has the tenacity and the heart to do her best for our country”, asserts the nurse. An arrow for Sanna Marin.
Last summer, the social democrat faced vicious attacks, when a video of her swaying with her friends spread on the Web. Accused of being under the influence of narcotics, Sanna Marin had to submit to a screening – negative – at the request of the Party of Finns. “After this episode, those who supported her supported her even more strongly, and her unpopularity increased among those who never really supported her,” says political scientist Aino Tiihonen. A polarity to which the Nordic country was not accustomed.
NATO: the candidacy of Sweden and Finland decoupled
The Turkish Parliament ratified on Thursday 30 March Finland’s candidacy for NATO. Turkey was the last member of the Atlantic Alliance not to have approved this membership.
In contrast, Sweden, which had made a joint application with Finland, is met with the refusal of Turkey and Hungary. Ankara criticizes Stockholm for its lack of cooperation against the Kurdish “terrorists” on its soil, while Budapest is annoyed by “an openly hostile attitude”.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö signed the accession law voted in Parliament on 23 March. He had promised to do so before the legislative elections on April 2, even if it meant getting ahead of his Swedish neighbor.
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