“What I have learnt is that you need to support women. I don’t want to say that a woman is always the one who is right and good. There are both women and men who do not want to support women. But as a woman gets on in years, she notices that there are factors behind political advancement in play other than her own excellence.”
Anneli Jäätteenmäki became Prime Minister on 17 April 2003.
Anneli Tuulikki Jäätteenmäki was Finland’s first female Prime Minister.
Jäätteenmäki became interested in politics in earnest at the University of Helsinki. However, she was already familiar with social participation from her childhood, since her father, Oiva Jäätteenmäki, was a well-known local politician in her hometown of Lapua.
Jäätteenmäki graduated as Master of Laws and trained on the bench in 1980. She started out as a lawyer at the office of the Municipal Contracting Delegation before securing a permanent post as a lawyer of the City of Lapua in 1982. She also served as Political Secretary to Eeva Kuuskoski, Minister of Social Affairs and Health, and as Legal Officer of the Centre Party Parliamentary Group.
The Parliament doors opened for Jäätteenmäki in 1987. Among other duties, she served on the Parliamentary Constitutional Law, Foreign Affairs and Legal Affairs Committees, the Grand Committee and the Parliamentary Supervisory Council of the Bank of Finland. She was also member of the Finnish Delegations to the Nordic Council and the Council of Europe. In 2003, Jäätteenmäki had a short stint of just under two months as Speaker of Parliament.
Jäätteenmäki became Minister of Justice in Prime Minister Esko Aho’s Cabinet to replace Hannele Pokka, who was appointed as Governor of the Province of Lapland. During her ministerial term of less than a year, she managed to push through the new Equality Act, which imposed gender quotas on certain public bodies. Jäätteenmäki deputised for Centre Party Chair Esko Aho in 2000 and was elected Chair in 2002. In the 2003 Parliamentary election, the Centre Party narrowly beat the governing Social Democratic Party. In accordance with the new Constitution, Jäätteenmäki conducted government negotiations, becoming Finland’s first female Prime Minister in 2003.
For the first time in history, the Jäätteenmäki Cabinet was composed of an equal number of men and women, and the principle of equal pay was included in the Government Programme. Jäätteenmäki’s government term only lasted 69 days, as public debate over the information that she had presented during election debates heated up. She was suspected of having misled Parliament as to how she had got hold of documents concerning discussions on Iraq conducted by her predecessor, Paavo Lipponen. Jäätteenmäki eventually tendered her resignation as Prime Minister in June 2003. A court of law acquitted her of charges of incitement and aiding and abetting while sentencing the leaker of the documents.
In 2004, Jäätteenmäki was elected to the European Parliament with a landslide, renewing her seat in the 2009 and 2014 elections. She served as Vice-Chair of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) from 2009 to 2014 and as Vice-President of the entire European Parliament for the 2015–2017 term. She has also been member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the Delegations for relations with Belarus and India.
Jäätteenmäki has written two works on her political career, Oikeus Voittaa (‘Justice prevails’, Edita 1999) and Sillanrakentaja (‘The bridge-builder’, WSOY 2002).
“What I have learnt is that you need to support women. I don’t want to say that a woman is always the one who is right and good. There are both women and men who do not want to support women. But as a woman gets on in years, she notices that there are factors behind political advancement in play other than her own excellence.” (Talvitie, Eveliina: Keitäs tyttö kahvia. Naisia politiikan portailla. [‘Put the kettle on, girl. Women on the political ladder.’] WSOY, 2013, p. 129.)
“For a Finnish woman, becoming Prime Minister meant breaking the glass ceiling.” (Jäätteenmäki in a Prime Minister’s Office interview on 17 March 2017.)
Date and place of birth: 10.2.1955 Lapua
Political party: Keskusta
- 1.5.1994 - 13.4.1995
Minister of Justice, Keskusta
- 17.4.2003 - 24.6.2003
Prime Minister, Keskusta
Texts by: Annika Puukka, Nevelyn Media Oy and Prime Minister’s Office