Ex-Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) on Thursday, 7 September 2023, announced she has been asked to be relieved of her parliamentary duties in order to become a strategic advisor at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. Marin argued that her stepping down and taking up the position would improve her ability to serve voters in Finland. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)


EX-PRIME MINISTER Sanna Marin (SDP) on Thursday announced she has asked to be relieved of her duties as Member of Finnish Parliament to join the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

Marin received 36,628 votes in the parliamentary elections held in April, becoming the second highest vote getter after Riikka Purra, the chairperson of the Finns Party. She said yesterday she is tremendously grateful to her voters but viewed that she will be better able to serve them in her role as strategic advisor at the institute than in the parliament.

“I believe that people understand that sometimes it’s time to move to a new phase in life. This wasn’t an easy decision, but I believe it was the right one,” she commented at a press conference.

She also assured that her appointment will have no bearing on her social democratic values.

Johanna Vuorelma, a political scientist at the University of Helsinki, wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, that Marin’s intention to leave the parliament seems bad from the perspective of democracy.

“It creates the image of a politician promoting her own interests,” she said.

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change operates in more than 30 countries. The Daily Telegraph revealed five years ago that the institute has received over 10 million euros in funding from Saudi Arabia. Co-operation between the institute and the authoritarian state known for trampling on the rights of women and sexual minorities continues also today, according to Helsingin Sanomat.

When asked about the matter, Marin said the institute receives funding from its clients, including Saudi Arabia.

Whether she is relieved of her duties as an elected representative will depend on the parliament. Although the Finnish constitution states that a representative may be granted release from his or duties only on acceptable grounds, only two such requests have ever been rejected, Timo Tuovinen, a deputy secretary general at the Finnish Parliament, said to Helsingin Sanomat on Thursday.

“The evaluation focuses specifically on the nature of the new position,” he said.

Marin’s request was submitted to the Speaker’s Council on Thursday, but the council decided to table the request for later. “We decided to table it – at least until we’ve familiarised with both the current and previous practice and the institute she is joining,” Speaker of Parliament Jussi Halla-aho (PS) explained to Ilta-Sanomat.

Such requests have previously been granted to representatives moving to high-ranking and societally influential positions, reminded Helsingin Sanomat:

Anna-Kaisa Ikonen (NCP) was released from her parliamentary duties to become the Mayor of Tampere and Juhana Vartiainen (NCP) to become the Mayor of Helsinki in 2021. Jutta Urpilainen (SDP) left to become a European Commissioner in 2019, Alexander Stubb (NCP) to become a vice president of the European Investment Bank in 2017, Mari Kiviniemi (Centre) to become a deputy secretary general at the OECD in 2014 and Jyrki Katainen (NCP) to become a European Commissioner in 2014.

Matti Vanhanen (Centre), meanwhile, was released from his obligations to take charge head of the Association of Family Companies in Finland in 2010. The former prime minister has since made a return to national politics.

If Marin is granted release from her duties, she will be replaced by Lotta Hamari (SDP), who received 2,675 votes in the electoral district of Pirkanmaa in April.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT