Since taking office in December 2019, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin has been at the center of exceptional international attention – by Finnish standards. The recent Partygate isn’t the first time Marin has made headlines outside of Finland.
Not every leader makes the cover of Time Magazine. And usually a Finnish Prime Minister’s vacation is not reported in the leading Italian media. Marin has put Finland on the world map in an unusual way.
When Marin became prime minister, she was the youngest head of government in the world at 34. But not only she, but her entire government is historic: All five parties in the coalition – the Marin-led Social Democrats, the Center Party, the Greens, the Left Alliance and the Swedish People’s Party – have female leaders – four of whom are under 40 years old . This shows that not only old men can make it to the top in Finland.
Finland is way ahead of many other European countries when it comes to gender equality. However, it is wrong to conclude from this that misogyny no longer plays a role in Finland: A study by the “NATO Strategic Communications Center for Excellence” last year found that female cabinet members in Finland are overly frequently affected by online harassment.
The recent scandal surrounding a party video in which Marin can be seen dancing wildly has sparked an international media whirl. Behind the “Partygate” Russian influence was already suspected as a retaliatory measure for Marin’s statements about a visa freeze for Russian tourists.
In fact, it’s a typical Finnish scandal that’s just much ado about nothing. It’s not a purely misogynistic attack on her either – given the high moral standards that apply to politicians in Finland, a similar video by a male prime minister would also have caused a scandal. The outcry was largely motivated by partisan politics. The next parliamentary elections will take place in Finland in 2023.
For example, the suggestion that Marin should take a drug test came from the leader of the Finns Party, which is currently in opposition. By the way, the test was negative.
The final verdict on the prime minister is still pending, but there is currently no indication that Marin has lost political support from her coalition.
So far, approval has been record high: In the polls of the largest Finnish daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, the Marin government was even at the “low point” in December 2021 with 48 percent approval, well above the best result of any other government since 2011.
At the start of the 2020 pandemic, Marin’s government enjoyed over 70 percent approval. In the most recent Helsingin Sanomat survey from June 2022, despite the economic slump in the second year of the pandemic, approval was again at almost 60 percent and thus still remarkably high.
The National Coalition Party, which is currently in opposition, overtook Marin’s Social Democrats at the top of the polls during the “Nato spring” because the party is the only major party that has supported Finland’s membership in the defense alliance for years .
That’s why the party scandal should be assessed with a view to next year’s elections: in March, Sanna Marin received the highest approval as a candidate for the top office in the next government, just ahead of the party leader of the National Coalition Party, Petter Orpo.
Overall, both Sanna Marin and her female-led government have proven competent with historic security policy decisions, despite exceptionally severe challenges initially in the pandemic and since Russia’s attack on Ukraine, and this is reflected in the poll numbers.
Under Marin’s direction, Finland also reports the highest employment rate since the financial crisis at 73.9 percent, and the country has also weathered the pandemic very well compared to other European countries. However, the rising public debt is a political issue that is hotly debated in Finland and divided on the left-right scale.