The legacy of the world’s once-youngest prime minister

Sep 1, 2023, 4:20pm EDT
Former Prime Minister of Finland Sanna Marin.
Lehtikuva/Markku Ulander via REUTERS
J.D. Capelouto/

Sanna Marin, the former prime minister of Finland, stepped down as leader of her party Friday, following a third-place finish in the country’s elections earlier this year.

Marin, now 37, was the world’s youngest prime minister at 34 when she took office in 2019.

Marin was seen as a "symbol of a new generation of progressive millennial politicians," making headlines for championing parental leave and creating a coalition government with parties all led by women, ABC News in Australia wrote.1 She took over as prime minster amid a crisis, after thousands of Finnish postal workers had gone on strike over a pay dispute. She then had to guide the country through COVID-19, and her tenure saw Finland join NATO following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Marin faced backlash after video leaked showing her dancing with friends at a private party in 2022. She was forced to take a drug test amid a debate over whether it was appropriate behavior for a prime minister — criticism that some said was sexist and ageist.2 She had said she felt her gender and age got too much attention, telling Vogue in 2020 that “in every position I’ve ever been in, my gender has always been the starting point - that I am a young woman.”3

She will remain a member of parliament, and was recently signed as a public speaker with a U.S.-based agency. Within Finland, the public has a mixed perception of Marin and her party, especially amid rising debt.4 But the head of a Finnish-based business group said that her move toward international speaking engagements makes sense, given that she's more popular abroad. Correspondingly, "it's hard for Western Europeans to understand that not everyone is a Barack Obama fan in the United States," he said.5