Another video of our young prime minister partying wildly has been circulating online for the last couple of days. The Finnish media reported that the clips have been filmed on Saturday night the 6th of August in two different apartments and were posted as a story on a private Instagram account believed to belong to photographer Janita Autio who was partying with the prime minister herself and shot some of the footage. The crowd in the background yell “Jauhojengi” roughly translated meaning “powder gang,” which some said could refer to cocaine or amphetamine in Helsinki street slang.
Autio is the same photographer who ran into the prime minister “by accident” at a music festival in mid-July and took a photo of her in shorts and a leather jacket, which circulated in the social and mainstream media.
In the leaked videos Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin is dancing and singing for the camera with exaggerated moves and facial expressions and moves back to the frame when the camera pans away from her. The language used is at times vulgar and the choice of music is plebeian.
The party then moved to the nightlife of Helsinki and continued in two nightclubs. Both at the house parties and in the bars, many people were previously unknown to Marin. Soon a sequel video emerged showing Marin, married and mother of a 4-year-old, dancing tight and cheek to cheek with Finnish singer and actor Olavi Uusivirta, who appears to be kissing her neck.
It also turned out that Marin was not on vacation at the time of the partying and there was no substitute to take over if something urgent would come up. In fact, she had cancelled his vacation for the weekend, released the substitute who was the minister of Defence Antti Kaikkonen and reported herself to be on duty. Even though there are no routine tasks on weekends, the Prime minister as the head of the government must be available at all times in case urgent matters need decisions to be made. Finnish defence forces have been on high alert since Finland applied for NATO membership.
This is not the first time videos of Marin partying leaked to the public. Last December, she was filmed dancing it out in a nightclub after she had been informed that she was exposed to the Corona Virus, breaking her own government’s instructions. This was while Finland was sinking under its deepest Corona wave. She later apologised for that.
Responding to reporters’ questions in the aftermath of the recent video leaks, Marin defiantly defended her actions, saying she has been partying in private and has not done anything illegal. She saw the leaking of the videos as the only regrettable issue in the scandal. She reiterated that she had only taken mild alcoholic drinks and would have been capable of decision-making if needed.
She later said to have taken a drug test which was suggested by some MPs. Traces of cocaine would disappear from blood in about 2 days and from urine in 3 days and the videos were from two weeks ago, making the test mainly symbolic.
There is no information at the moment on who leaked the videos to the public and why. Posing and dancing for the camera suggests the prime minister was not only aware of but also eager to be filmed. Autio later said that Marin was also aware of the videos being published on a private account with over 90 followers. Was Marin certain that these videos will never be seen by the public? That would be outright naïve in the present Social Media era. Could it also be that encouraged by the compliments she received for the “accidental” festival portrait, she took the risk thinking it could even raise her profile? Whatever the truth behind this, it speaks volumes of a blurry judgment. It's not about morality, but maturity.
Although it is hard to believe that the leak would be intentional, Marin does seek attention and is not new to using publicity stunts to advance her carrier. Based on a tweet by long-term ex-Social Democratic Party (SDP) active Michael Jungner, she specifically requested her fellow party member Junger a few years ago to criticise her publicly on Twitter, so that her profile would rise in the party. The claim was later confirmed by Marin herself. In Sept 2020, according to Iltasanomat, the office of the prime minister sent WhatsApp messages to citizens asking them to go on Twitter and praise her government's “extraordinary achievements”.
In response to several questions from reporters regarding the image conveyed by the videos and its effect on the prestige of a prime minister, Sanna Marin repeatedly said that citizens are to decide on that when they will cast their votes in the next elections.
In a sense, she is right; people get leaders that they deserve in a democracy. Marin should be free to dance and sing and hang out with her friends anytime she wants. As a young woman, there is nothing wrong with that if that is what she graves for. She would certainly not win any dance competitions with those moves, but what voters should decide on is if she is the most competent and best candidate for the highest job of the government and on what basis.
Marin was not elected as the prime minister by popular vote. When in Dec. 2019 the centre party, announced that it had lost confidence in Antti Rinne, the leader of the Social Democratic Party and elected prime minister of the time, The Social Democratic party council, consisting of 61 members including the outgoing prime minister Rinne, voted to select one of the two deputy leaders of the party to replace Rinne as the party leader. Rinne’s protégé, Marin won by 32 of the votes. Thus a few members of the social democratic party decided that the country should be run by a recently graduated first-time MP in her 30s, with no experience in leadership and her only real-world job experience being a summer cashier of a department store.
There were many experienced politicians within the party, but that is not how it works, it’s not about competence or experience or what’s best for the country, but the internal dynamics, relations and favouritism within the group.
The dilemma Finland is facing with Marin is a wider global crisis of democracies. In every democracy, all managerial jobs in public and private institutions are highly competitive, candidates must have a long track record, relevant education and experience and go through elaborate psychological tests and interviews to get the job. When it comes to the highest jobs in the nation and running the country, the popular vote overrules all of that. Popularity is the only requirement. If you claim you can do it, and convince the voters to believe you, you’ll get the job!
Many of the ministers in governments in Finland and some of the western democracies including Marin herself and her cabinet, based on their CVs, would not get a managerial job in any of the ministries they are running. Yet ministers are often shuffled like in a game of musical chairs; one can be the minister of transport and communication today and the minister of environment or interior next week, as if these posts are roles in a kindergarten game.
We wouldn’t vote on who amongst the passengers should pilot an aeroplane or who amongst the patients should perform a heart transplant surgery. We all want the most experienced and competent professionals to do those jobs. Why is it that running the whole country and deciding on the matters of war and peace, poverty and prosperity and a nation’s finance and welfare can be just given to anyone?
People seem to see political leaders as celebrities with entertainment value. Canadians elect Justine Trudeau, a kayak instructor to run their country because his father was also a prime minister. Brazilians elect Jair Bolsonaro, Brits Boris Johnson, Ukrainians, a comedian who played a president in a soap opera and Americans first the reality TV boss Donald Trump and now Joe Biden, all with devastating consequences to the whole world.
In the Philippines, after a disastrous period of the country being ruled by Rodrigo Duterte, Bong Bong Markus son of the dictator Ferdinand Markus won the recent elections by a landslide by using money stolen by his father to rewrite history on social media, convincing the younger generation that his brutal father was the best leader Philippines ever had.
Masses are easy to influence and manipulate, turning democracies into “Dumpocracies”
Bad governance is causing constant and long-lasting problems with one crisis after another roaming freely in democratic societies. Millions of people would still be alive, had the Covid crisis been handled properly in the west. Most of this century’s wars could have been prevented.
One reason the governing systems can tolerate incompetent leaders to some degree is that miniseries, administrative and operational organisations of developed democracies are staffed with highly qualified and competent managers and civil servants, constituting an “autopilot,” resistant to some degree of manipulation by ignorant political leaders. When the elected Ministers and their entourage are incompetent which is not uncommon, these organisations have to spend a lot of their time and energy on damage control instead of progress and development.
From 2010 - 2011, Belgium did not have a government for over 19 months, and the country functioned just fine. Ordinary citizens didn’t notice a thing. Of course, new legislations were not passed and some decisions were put off, as the civil servants were not allowed to make them.
Some may argue, that the elected leadership, such as ministers are there for “political guidance” to convey and oversee the will of the people. That is not true. These posts are the top decision-making positions in the country. Incompetent cabinets or prime ministers could break the back of a nation.
One example of this can be found not long ago in Finland’s history. Before Marin, the youngest prime minister who served was Esko Aho. During his government in the early 90s, Finland experienced the worst recession of its history. A report by chief economist Jaakko Kiander compiled by 100 researchers found out that a series of wrong decisions by the unexperienced Aho and his government led to catastrophic results, deepening the recession, resulting in waves of bankruptcies, suicides and unemployment of over half a million people.
Ramifications of those wrong decisions still affect Finnish society. Recent research by the Family Federation of Finland (Vaestöliitto) on reasons behind record low birth rates in 2021, found the traumatisation of the now child-bearing-age population by the shock of the 90s recession to be one significant reason behind the unwillingness of this generation to have children. In evolutionary terms, bad leadership could push a nation towards extinction.
Marin’s government’s sloppy and uncoordinated handling of the Coronavirus crisis in Finland has caused thousands of preventable infections, deaths and huge economical losses. In the beginning, there was no control at the borders for months and tens of thousands of travellers entered the country without even a temperature measurement as officials were waiting for each other to make decisions.
Finland’s debt to GDP has increased dramatically within the last three years to 60%, surpassing €134 billion equaling €24 000 for every Finnish citizen, including newborns. The country is in an energy crisis with electricity prices tripling and diesel fuel running out. The health care system is stretched to its limits with nurses resigning and patients waiting months for treatment. The Nato application fiasco is dragging on and sanctions are hurting us more than Russia. Inflation is rampant and food prices are rising on weekly basis. How do we dance our way through this chaos?
Only time will show how the extent of damage inflicted on the country by decisions made during Marin’s government.
All this doesn’t mean that dictatorships are better, but that democracies can and must be improved by raising the standards and requiring the same maturity, competence and experience for elected officials as we do for any other highly sensitive leadership position. People in dictatorships have no choice, we do.
Ministers have resigned for less before. In 2008, Ilkka Kanevra had to give up his post as the foreign minister because of sending sexually charged text messages to a stripper. Interestingly, times have changed and there seems to be way more tolerance for female officials. How would the nation react if a male prime minister would be the star of similar videos dancing intimately with a strange woman?
As for the Marin government, it is extremely unlikely that she would resign or the cabinet would dissolve, as the majority of the ministers, including, and especially the prime minister have no qualifications or competence to get any managerial jobs of this level and salary in any private or public organisations, so they would fight for these posts tooth and nail until removed by force.
The nation is divided. Those who have bet on this horse, that “she can do it” tolerate and even praise all. They want to prove the point, that a young woman can do any job. Those who shake their heads are not going to march to the streets and ask for a new government. After all, we don’t have many great options to replace the existing ones. The media has moved on to the next topic.
Meanwhile, the show will certainly go on. This will not be the last episode of this musical.