HELSINKI — In a leaked video, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin is seen dancing and singing with friends at a private party. The 36-year-old leader poses for the camera. She is sitting on her knees, her hands behind her head. She is entangled in a group hug. She is having a good time.
Countless similar videos are shared daily on social media by young and old partying in Finland and around the world. But the leak has sparked a debate among Finns about the appropriate level of rejoicing for a prime minister, especially given neighboring Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which has prompted long-neutral Finland and Sweden to to apply for NATO membership.
Marin, who leads the center-left Social Democratic Party, faced a barrage of questions about the party: Were there drugs? Alcohol? Was she working or was she on summer vacation? Was the Prime Minister sober enough to handle an emergency if such an emergency had occurred?
The video, clearly shot by someone at the party, was leaked on social media and caught the attention of Finnish media this week. Marin said she had attended the party for the past few weeks, but declined to say exactly where or when.
She also acknowledged that she and her friends celebrated in a “loud” way and that alcohol – but, to her knowledge, no drugs – was involved. She said on Friday that she had taken a drug test to end speculation about illegal substances.
“I hope that in 2022 it will be accepted that even decision-makers dance, sing and go to parties,” Marin told reporters. “I did not want images to be released, but it is up to voters to decide what they think of it.”
The Prime Minister, who is married and has a 4-year-old daughter, has often insisted that although she is the head of Finland’s government, she is like anyone else her age who enjoys spending time good time with friends and family in his spare time. .
In Helsinki, Friday afternoon, opinions were divided.
Josua Fagerholm, who works in marketing, said the episode was potentially damaging to Finland’s reputation and public trust in Finnish politicians.
“I think it’s important that our politicians be respectable and enjoy the public’s trust. So I don’t think that’s a good look,” he said.
Mintuu Kylliainen, a student in Helsinki, disagreed. She said everyone is entitled to their opinion, but she felt the leaked video drew too much attention.
“It’s okay to party,” Kylliainen said. “She should also have fun in her life.”
Some supporters say the criticism of the prime minister smacks of sexism.
Marin became Finland’s youngest prime minister in 2019 at age 34. Even in the egalitarian Nordic country, Marin felt that her gender and age were sometimes given too much importance. She told Vogue magazine in 2020 that “in every position I’ve held, my gender has always been the starting point – that I’m a young woman”.
Anu Koivonen, professor of gender studies at Finland’s University of Turku, said she did not believe gender was a decisive factor in the uproar over the leaked video. She said the party itself wasn’t a big deal, but the fact that the video leaked could be seen as a lack of judgment by the prime minister when it came to who she surrounded herself with.
“That she didn’t hold back in a business where she can’t trust everyone in the room,” Koivonen said. “I think that’s the main problem.”
Jarno Limnell, a cybersecurity expert and politician from the conservative Finnish National Coalition party, said the party incident was problematic from a security perspective, noting that Finland’s top leaders are of interest to foreign security services.
“Information is gathered from various sources, and even seemingly insignificant information can be important to a foreign power,” Limnell told Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. “Key decision makers are under close scrutiny during the NATO ratification process.”
This isn’t the first time Marin’s party has made headlines. In December, she apologized after clubbing until 4 a.m. and missing a text message advising her to avoid social contact due to being close to someone infected with COVID-19. Marin said she didn’t see the message because she left her phone at home. She tested negative for the virus.
Even in a progressive society like Finland, Marin breaks the mold of a typical politician. She grew up with a single mother who was in a relationship with another woman. Many Finns are proud of her modern approach to the office, including her casual attire. Marin created social media buzz in April when she showed up to a press conference with her Swedish counterpart wearing a black leather jacket.
Marin and his female-dominated cabinet have also been praised in Finland and around the world for steadfastly guiding the country through the COVID-19 pandemic and the NATO bid process.
“Our Prime Minister is great,” said Jori Korkman, a pensioner in Helsinki. “She took her very difficult job during a very difficult time and she did a first class job. What she does in her spare time is none of our business.