Wednesday 08.07.2020

Estonia apologizes for Interior Minister's mockery on Sanna Marin

The embarrassment suffered by Estonia was not enough to cause Mart Helme's resignation or cessation. On Tuesday, he survived a vote of confidence triggered by his comments.
The Estonian Interior Minister Mart Helme. Photo: Mart Helme (Facebook).
The Estonian Interior Minister Mart Helme. Photo: Mart Helme (Facebook).

Forming a coalition government with populist parties, those who claim to dare to say 'what people really think' has several disadvantages. And one of them is to have to formally apologize every time a minister makes an improper comment.

That is what happened last weekend between Estonia and Finland, two countries that for years have shared a good neighborhood relationship, which has been marred by comments made on Sunday by Estonian Interior Minister Mart Helme, about Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin.

Helme's statements have forced Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid to call her Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinistö on Monday to formally apologize.

Marin became world news

Last week, Sanna Marin made headlines worldwide when she became the youngest prime minister in the world at 34. Marin -who worked in a department store before entering politics-, now leads a government made up of 5 women-led parties. In addition to that, of the 19 ministers that make up her Government, 12 are women.

The Estonian Interior Minister, who leads the right-wing populist party Ekre -in very good relations with the True Finns (Perussuomalaiset)-, seems to dislike the profile of the new Finnish prime minister and her team. Last Sunday, in an interview with radio channel TRE, he mocked the background of Sanna Marin and some of her ministers:

"Now we can see that a salesgirl has become prime minister and some other street activist and uneducated person has also become a member of the Government," he said.

Civil war language

Helme also linked the new Sanna Marin government with a purported revenge for the Finnish civil war of 1918. In terms far from the current Finnish political debate, Helme related the current Helsinki Government with the 'Red' side, which fought against the 'Whites' in the 1918 war.

"Now we can actually see to some extent the historical revenge of the Reds on the Whites, that is to say, the Reds who wanted to liquidate the Finnish state during the Civil War have now come to power and are now desperately trying to liquidate Finland, making it a Euro-province," he added.

The Finnish civil war of 1918 is a historical episode that in Finland, unlike in other countries that suffered similar internal conflicts, today does not cause significant confrontations among the population, so talking about sides is not realistic.

Helme also predicted that the leader of the True Finns Jussi Halla-Aho will be the next Finnish prime minister because "something inintelligible as what is happening in Finland has probably not happened there for centuries."

Marin responded on Twitter

The Finnish Government did not want to respond officially to Mart Helme's comments. However, on Sunday night Sanna Marin published a tweet in which she emphasized how proud she is of her country, one of the few where a saleswoman can become head of Government. 

"I am extremely proud of Finland. Here the child of a poor family can educate himself highly and reach many goals in life. For example, a shop-cashier can become Prime Minister. Finland would not survive without its workers. I highly value of the work of every employee, professional and entrepreneur," she wrote on her Twitter account.

The office of the President of the Republic of Finland issued a statement saying that Sauli Niinistö will transmit the apology of the Estonian President to Marin and her cabinet.

The embarrassment suffered by Estonia was not enough to cause Helme's resignation or cessation. On Tuesday, he survived a vote of confidence triggered by his comments.

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