• David Lee

Prime Minister of Parties? Controversy in Finland


Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin faces backlash after a video was leaked of her dancing and partying with friends (Laura Kotila/Flickr).


Videos of Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin partying and dancing with friends were leaked on August 17, causing international backlash and criticism. The videos displayed the Finnish leader having fun with friends, dancing to music and singing songs. Prime Minister Marin has been criticized previously for attending too many parties, gatherings, and music festivals instead of helping to run the country. Critics have called out this behavior, calling it not fitting for a leader. Opposition party members have also criticized her actions, with one even calling for her to take a drug test. The situation has been dubbed “Partygate,” as the young Prime Minister faces controversy inside and outside of Finland.


Who is Sanna Marin?

As one of the youngest prime ministers in the globe at 36 years old, Marin ascended to power in 2019 when she was selected to succeed Annti Rinne as the prime minister of Finland by the Social Democratic Party. She led Finland through the global outbreak of COVID-19, declaring a state of emergency and helping to administer more than 12 million doses of vaccines. Marin’s foreign policy has been a center of attention on the global stage, with her address on new year’s stating that Finland had a right to join NATO if they wished to. Russian media and news outlets responded with hostility and confrontation as reported that Finland “stabbed Moscow in the back.”


On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, shifting European politics from NATO to the European Union. A day after the invasion, a Russian spokesperson would issue a warning to both Finland and Sweden, saying if they made any attempts to join NATO, there would be “military consequences.” Finland would once again be put on the world stage as Prime Minister Marin condemned the EU’s dependency on Russian petroleum, gas, and other resources, saying it was “financing the Russian War.” After the President of Finland’s visit to the U.S. which strengthened American and Finnish relations, Marin and the President would say in a joint statement that Finland would have to join NATO as soon as possible due to security, fearing Russia’s aggression. On May 15, 2022, Prime Minister Marin and the President announced that Finland would apply for NATO membership, changing Finland’s stance on the war and turning away from Russian influence. This move would turn Finland, a country bordering Russia, into a NATO member, an action that some predicted would aggravate Russian President Putin.


Prime Minister Marin also voted to ban more than 90 percent of Russian imports by the end of the year and would meet Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in war torn Ukraine. The 36 year old Finnish leader is a prominent figure in European politics and is leading the Finnish opposition to Russian aggression, but is currently in the middle of controversy.


The Reponses

The videos of the Finnish Prime Minister’s party were leaked on social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram for all to see. To reduce concerns about her behavior on video, Prime Minister Marin took a drug test just 2 days after the videos were leaked. A government statement stated that drugs, including cannabis, opioids, and cocaine, were not found in the test. The Prime Minister additionally denied usage of any drugs, stating that she only drank alcohol. Nevertheless, she would face international criticism.


It wouldn’t be her first time, as she also attended a night club after exposure to someone with COVID-19. Seen from another perspective, “The Partygate Scandal” was nothing but a tool that Prime Minister Marin’s opposition would use to damage her political career. After the videos were leaked, right wing extremists speculated that the Prime Minister had taken drugs, based on a word that one of her friends said. The word “Jauhojengi” was interpreted as a reference to cocaine, but most Finnish people have said that the word wasn’t even a word at all, according to Euronews. The cocaine claims were debunked by Finnish political commentator Janne Korhonen, but still gained traction.


The second video was shared by a gossip magazine, wanting to ruin the prime minister’s reputation. Media outlets and political opponents have attacked Marin for many things, including making breakfast at home using public funds. Former prime ministers have also engaged in this behavior, but Marin’s act was criticized. The Finnish leader has suffered scandal after scandal since taking office, but the partying videos were more controversial than the rest.


Although Prime Minister Marin is facing international backlash for these videos, she has also received an outpouring of public support. Women across the world have posted videos of themselves dancing and partying, defending her and accusing her critics of being sexist. Spanish politician Iratxe Garcia wrote on Twitter, "How shocking!!! A young politician who does her job and enjoys her private life... Why can't a young woman have fun? I can't stand gender double standards.” Also defending Marin, Ashok Swain, a Swedish professor, would tweet, "Why can't she party after work? Do we expect our leaders not to be human beings?"


What now?

Setting a standard for a world leader is a fiercely debated topic, as both sides have presented cases, criticisms, and condemnations. Nonetheless, the Finnish Prime Minister will continue to lead Finland heading into another phase of the Russia-Ukraine War. Her public approval ratings have been high before “partygate,” and she still has the support of important members of the Finnish Government and leaders from other political parties. The impact of her leaked videos on her polls are yet to be determined.