Finnish PM does politics hard, parties hard, gets criticised hard

Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin was recently dubbed the “coolest prime minister in the world” by the German “Bild” daily. But a leaked video of her partying with friends has caused some controversy. And just recently, “Partygate” cost British PM Borish Johnson his job after weeks of a protracted media circus and parliamentary scrutiny.

In the video, thought to be taken from social media, PM Marin and her friends, including Finnish celebrities, are seen dancing and singing.

A 36-year-old woman should not allow herself to have fun, some appear to think, as it is apparently unbecoming to someone serving on the post of Prime Minister. This would not be the first time Ms Marin was criticised over her perceived love of fun. Last year she went clubbing after coming into close contact with a COVID-19 case, for which she later apologised.

One of the opposition leaders, Mikko Kärnä of the Centre Party, went so far as to demand Ms Marin take a drug test.

“Just for the sake of the discussion in public, it would be wise if Prime Minister Sanna Marin voluntarily went through a drug screening, the results of which would be made public by an independent body.” He was seconded by MP Riikka Purra, from the opposition Finns Party.

The Prime Minister denies having taken any drugs, and said that she only drank alcohol and simply partied “in a boisterous way”. She says she was aware she was being filmed, although she was upset that the video was leaked. “I danced, sang, and partied - perfectly legal things. And I've never been in a situation where I've seen or known of others [using drugs],” she added.

Ms Marin’s party colleague, Antti Lindtman, said that the Prime Minister should willingly submit herself to the test, in order to dispel any doubts about whether she was under the influence of controlled substances.

The crux of the matter and the focus of criticism by the opposition and the media appears to be the fact that the Prime Minister should focus on more important domestic problems. But as Ms Marin told journalists: “I have a family life, I have a work life, and I have free time to spend with my friends. Pretty much the same as many people my age.” She added that she does not feel a need to change her behaviour. “I am going to be exactly the same person as I have been until now and I hope that it will be accepted.”

Cui bono?

Those who criticise Prime Minister Marin claim to do so over what they consider behaviour not befitting her position. Those who defend her will say that she has the right to some fun time if it does not affect her work in the capacity of the head of the cabinet.

Perhaps the focus should rather be: who benefits from the video being leaked.

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Just on Tuesday, Finland announced that it will slash the number of tourist visas granted to Russian citizens by 90 percent, to about only 100 issued daily. An increasing number of European countries are considering stopping issuing tourist visas to Russian citizens. Russian propagandists may say that it does not matter since two-in-three of Russian were never abroad anyway, and Russian MP Oleg Morozov may call for barring Finns from entering Russia except for things such as medical treatment or attending funerals, saying that Russia can manage without “cross-border trips by Finns to buy petrol.”

But the fact is, that the visa ban is a jab at Russia’s prestige. The democratic world already treats Russia, the state, like an international pariah. Perhaps the Russian people should be sent the same message; whether they are oligarchs, who will no longer be able to go to Cote d’Azur with their wives or mistresses, or eye-wateringly poor peasants living in a tumble-down cottage without running water or indoor plumbing in some Siberia backwater who never ventured any farther than the next village.

The fact that the leaking of the video coincided with the decision to issue fewer visas to Russians may not be a coincidence.

Bruno Maçães, a Portuguese politician and author, said as much in a Tweet: “The way Kremlin people are going on about the party video by Sanna Marin I wonder if they leaked it. Keep going, you’ll make her the most popular politician in Europe. And Finns are not stupid.”

Joyce Karam, a journalist and Adjunct Professor at George Washington University, similarly thinks that kicking up a fuss over Ms Marin’s behaviour is misguided. If the Finnish PM’s critics believe she should focus on more important matters, what should they be?

“Maybe she should have invaded a neighbouring country, embezzled some money and spread hate and xenophobia instead…” Others have pointed out that there are more embarrassing ways to have fun for a European politician, like enjoying yourself with Putin. The list includes former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, and former Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl.

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Schröder continues to sit on the board of directors of Rosneft. Ms Kneissel, who was also on the board, resigned, although it took her until May. She has, however, until just before the war worked as a regular op-ed columnist at the Russian government outlet RT, and shortly before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, she dismissed intelligence reports suggesting that invasion as Western “war hysteria”, blown up by the media.

Putin must be a really good dancer if dancing with him at her wedding made Ms Kneissl lose her grip on reality. Or perhaps she was never fit to work as a foreign minister of a European country to begin with. But having such wedding photos with Putin dug up seems to be definitely way more embarrassing than what we have seen dug up on Prime Minister Marin.