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Poll: Finns favour male politicians

Finland has had a reputation for gender equality in politics since becoming the first country to grant universal suffrage in 1906. Indeed the current government is female-dominated by a margin of 10-7 – yet the results of this poll suggest that the public still prefers male politicians.

Erkki Tuomioja ja Päivi Räsänen.
Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

As the four-year legislative term draws to a close, an Yle survey suggests that Finns tend to have more respect for men in government.

The polling company Taloustutkimus questioned more than 1,000 Finns in late January and early February. Respondents were asked to give a grade to the current cabinet ministers and others who have held portfolios since mid-2011.

That is when the previous National Coalition Party-led government was sworn in under premier Jyrki Katainen. He stepped aside last summer to allow party colleague Alexander Stubb to take over the reins of a coalition that has shrunk from six to four parties since the last election.

Finland has had a reputation for gender equality in politics since becoming the first country to grant universal suffrage in 1906. Indeed the current government is female-dominated by a margin of 10-7 – yet the results of this poll suggest that the public still prefers male politicians.

The top-ranked current and previous ministers are all men, while the seven receiving the lowest grades are women.

Tuomioja commands respect

The present minister earning the highest grade was veteran Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja (SDP). At 68, Tuomioja is one of Finland's most experienced politicians, having served in Parliament since 1970 and as a minister on and off for 15 years.

He was followed by SDP colleague, former union boss and Labour Minister Lauri Ihalainen, Minister of Economic Affairs Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) and Defence Minister Carl Haglund (Swedish People’s Party). The best-rated women were Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson (Swedish People’s Party) and Minister of Transport and Local Government Paula Risikko (NCP).

PM Stubb scraped into seventh place, just barely ahead of SDP chair and Finance Minister Antti Rinne. There are 17 ministers in the cabinet.

Räsänen least popular

Earning the lowest score was Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen, who heads the small Christian Democrats party. Just ahead of her were two recently-arrived NCP ministers, Laura Räty, who has been Minister of Social Affairs and Health since last summer, and Sanni Grahn-Laasonen, who took over as Environment Minister in September.

Among ministers who have stepped down since the last election, the highest grades went to the Greens’ Pekka Haavisto and Ville Niinistö, followed by ex-PM Katainen. Bringing up the rear was the SDP’s Maria Guzenina-Richardson, who served as minister of health and social services from 2011 to 2013.

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