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The progressive “superstars” brought down to Earth

Marin: more time to party. Roni Rekomaa/Bloomberg/Getty

For many outside Finland, says Megan Gibson in The New Statesman, the election defeat of Sanna Marin appears “shocking”. After all, the 37-year-old is a “superstar”: the “young and cool prime minister” who steered her country through a pandemic and set it on the path to Nato membership, “while also finding time to party”. But for anyone paying attention, her defenestration is hardly unexpected. In polls, her ruling Social Democratic Party has lagged the centre-right National Coalition Party for over a year, and regularly fallen behind the far-right Finns Party. Sure enough, the Social Democrats finished a lowly third, and she is stepping down as their leader.

Whatever Marin’s international fanbase might say, the end of her premiership wasn’t due to “outrage over her private life” or malign forces undermining her. It was mundane domestic politics. Her party simply “didn’t have a compelling enough offer”. As it was with Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon and Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand, Marin’s stature on the global stage eclipsed more local difficulties. Foreigners saw a “modern, media-savvy operator” who championed progressive causes in a leather jacket. At home, voters were more interested in “pesky details” like the national debt. To those who held her up as an “international icon” representing not Finland, but a “broad, if often ill-defined” set of liberal values, her defeat is a “tragedy”. To most Finns, it was just another election.