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behind the controversy Sanna Marin, a society in profound change

In Finland, where the young and equal government is led by a woman, the Prime Minister is at the heart of a scandal linked to the broadcasting of private videos. A controversy fueled by a very conservative fraction of society, embodied in politics by the Party of Finns, in a sensitive geopolitical context linked to tense relations with its Russian neighbor.

Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland, has been at the heart of the controversy since videos showing her dancing at a private party with friends and celebrities leaked on August 17 on social networks. Behavior unworthy of a head of government, criticize some, mainly from the opposition camp, while others stir up rumors of an alleged use of narcotics, pushing Sanna Marin to carry out a screening to free herself from any accusation. .

Since then, the controversy has not died down. On the contrary, it was fueled on August 23 by the broadcast on TikTok of a photo taken in his official residence. We see two women kissing, lifting their tops to reveal their chests while holding a sign with the inscription “Finland”. A photograph for which the youngest head of government in Europe had to apologize. “I think the photo is inappropriate, I apologize,” said Sanna Marin, to defuse the crisis. “She shouldn’t have been taken.”

Since its genesis, the case seems to highlight a paradox in Finnish political life where despite a joint and very young government, such controversies can emerge, fueled by a conservative party wishing to question the legitimacy of the Prime Minister to govern.

And if this story fascinates well beyond the borders of Finland, it is because the country is already at the heart of international attention, in the difficult context of the war in Ukraine.

A rejection of what Sanna Marin embodies

Sanna Marin had announced it: she wanted to “shake up” the office of Prime Minister, due to her youth (now 36 years old) and her desire to “live like [mon] age”, she said to Finnish public radio, in October 2021.

Head of government since 2019, she has always claimed her right to privacy, adding that she sometimes feels that her very existence represents “a provocation” for some. Indeed, since the beginning of his mandate, he has been criticized for his activities on social networks, the parties organized in his official residence and his friendships with certain celebrities.

The new controversy at the heart of which it finds itself has been fueled considerably by the Party of Finns, a populist, nationalist and conservative party. This party wants to “reinvent a national novel by recreating a fictitious, ideal Finnish identity of times past”, explains Cyril Coulet, specialist in the Nordic countries. A party which therefore rejects everything that Sanna Marin wants to embody, she who, to justify herself and appease the controversy, publicly defended her right to “joy” and “life”.

A right to joy later claimed by many Finns who, since the start of the controversy, have supported the Finnish Prime Minister by posting videos on social networks accompanied by the hashtag “Solidarity with Sanna”.

“Society is not uniform, there are conservative and more modern fractions,” says Cyril Coulet. According to him, Sanna Marin has built his political communication on his positioning and his personal history outside the framework. “Raised by two women, she is anyway from a non-traditional family outside the conservative expectations of part of Finnish society.”

Diffusion power multiplied

To live happily (and peacefully), live hidden. Social networks, more used than ever, are essential as a vector of “decompartmentalization of public life and private life”, explains Cyril Coulet. If the videos and photos of the discord had not been posted on social networks, such a controversy would not have emerged.

“In Finland, we are in a very digitized society in which information and telecommunications tools are extremely widespread and diffused, which gives a power of dissemination multiplied compared to other societies”, develops the specialist in the Nordic countries. .

According to him, this clearly says something about today’s Finnish society. There is “a tension between a conservative fraction nostalgic for an idealized past, and a country which has become extremely modernized, which presents itself as being ‘at the forefront’ on subjects such as gender equality and new technologies”, he develops.

Faced with attempts by the Party of Finns – previously called the Party of True Finns – to trip her up, Sanna Marin adopts “a counter-communication aimed at maintaining a more dynamic and modern image of politics, which wants to shake up Finland”, continues Cyril Coulet, former researcher at the Swedish Institute of International Relations.

All this in a context where Helsinki finds itself in the spotlight, attracting attention due to its geographical proximity to Russia and its new position vis-à-vis Moscow: breaking with the traditional position of balance that she was adopting so far.

“Ingredients that allow an event of this type to take on a dimension that it would not have taken otherwise”, summarizes Cyril Coulet.

At the heart of international attention

If, for Cyril Coulet, the fact that Sanna Marin is a woman (and young) surely influences the treatment granted to her, the context of international tensions in which Finland finds itself also plays a major role.

As a direct consequence of the war in Ukraine, Finland is now seeking to join NATO, breaking with decades of neutrality. However, the process of ratifying its accession to the Atlantic alliance has still not been finalized.

“Things will not settle down immediately and Finland will continue to be exposed,” adds Cyril Coulet, referring to probable blockages exerted by Turkey.

>> To read – NATO: who are the “terrorists” claimed by Turkey from Finland and Sweden?

Russia, considering the inclusion in NATO of Finland (with which it shares 1,340 kilometers of border) as a threat to Russian national security, has repeatedly asserted that NATO’s repeated requests that Finland and Sweden join the military alliance would have major political and militaristic consequences that would threaten the regional stability of the Nordic countries.

“The application for NATO membership and Finland’s position vis-à-vis Russia can add to the country’s impression of vulnerability”, concludes Cyril Coulet, “and increase the pressure weigh on the Prime Minister and the requirement of exemplarity that some of the political parties address to her”.