Finland asks: Can a prime minister party like a rock star?

HELSINKI (AP) — 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. He sits on his knees, hands behind his 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 not so young people partying in Finland and around the world. But the leak has sparked a debate among Finns about what level of delight is inappropriate for a prime minister, especially considering neighboring Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which prompted long-neutral Finland and Sweden to apply for NATO membership.

Marin, who heads the center-left Social Democratic Party, has faced a barrage of questions about the party: Were there drugs? Alcohol? Was he working or on summer vacation? Was the prime minister sober enough to handle an emergency if it had arisen?

The video, clearly shot by someone at the party, was leaked on social media and caught the attention of the Finnish media this week. Marin said that she attended the party in recent weeks, but declined to say exactly where or when.

She also recognized that she and her friends celebrated in a “boisterous manner” and that alcohol, but, to her knowledge, not drugs, was involved. She said Friday that she took 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,” Marín told reporters. “I didn’t want any images released, but it’s up to the voters to decide what they think about it.”

The prime minister, who is married with a 4-year-old daughter, has often insisted that although she is Finland’s head of government, she is like any other person her age who likes to have a good time with friends. and family in their spare time. .

In Helsinki on Friday afternoon, opinions were divided.

Josua Fagerholm, who works in marketing, said the episode could damage Finland’s reputation and the public’s trust in Finnish politicians.

“I think it is important that our politicians are respectable and have the public’s trust. So I don’t think it looks good,” he said.

Mintuu Kylliainen, a student from Helsinki, disagreed. She said everyone had a say, but felt the leaked video was getting too much attention.

“It’s normal 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 the youngest Prime Minister of Finland in 2019 at 34 years old. Even in the egalitarian Nordic country, Marin felt her gender and age were sometimes given too much emphasis. She told Vogue magazine in 2020 that “in every position I’ve been in, my gender has always been the starting point: that I’m a young woman.”

Anu Koivonen, a professor of gender studies at the University of Turku in Finland, said she didn’t think gender was a deciding factor in the uproar over the leaked video. She said the party itself was not a big deal, but the fact that the video was leaked could be seen as an error in judgment on the prime minister’s part in terms of the people she surrounded herself with.

“That you didn’t hold back in a company that you can’t trust everyone in the room,” Koivonen said. “I think that’s the main issue right now.”

Jarno Limnell, a cybersecurity expert and regional politician from the conservative National Coalition Party of Finland, said the incident was problematic from a security point of view, noting that Finland’s top leaders are of interest to security services. foreign security.

“Information is gathered from a variety of sources, and even seemingly trivial 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.”

It’s not the first time Marin’s party has made headlines. In December, he publicly apologized after clubbing until 4 a.m. despite a text message advising him to avoid social activities due to contact with someone infected with COVID-19. Marin said she didn’t see the message because she had left her phone at home. She later tested negative for the coronavirus.

Even in a progressive society like Finland, Marin breaks the mold of a typical politician. He grew up with a single mother who was in a relationship with another woman. Many Finns are proud of his modern approach to the office, including the casual attire he has worn on formal occasions. Marin caused a stir on social media in April when he showed up to a press conference with his Swedish counterpart wearing a black leather biker jacket.

Marin and her female-majority cabinet have also won praise in Finland and internationally for steadfastly guiding the country through the COVID-19 pandemic and the NATO application process.

“Our prime minister is super,” said Jori Korkman, a retiree in Helsinki. “She has taken her job very hard during a very difficult time, and she has done a first class job. What she does in her spare time is none of our business.”

___ Ritter reported from Stockholm.

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