Finland’s Cool Prime Minister Loves to Dance, and People Are Mad About It

Does Sanna Marin party too much for a world leader, or is she just a competent woman enjoying her life? Let's investigate.

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Photo: EMMI KORHONEN/Lehtikuva/AFP / Visegard 24 via Twitter (Getty Images)

Sanna Marin, Finland’s 36-year-old prime minister, is not sorry for partying. On Wednesday, videos surfaced online of her dancing and having a ball of a time—which allegedly included someone shouting about drugs in the background (though I cannot confirm this, as my Finnish language skills are subpar). Some of her political opponents took this as an opportunity to question her judgment and demanded that she take a drug test.

Marin shot back: “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],” according to the BBC. I don’t believe that at all but also don’t care at all, so let’s move on.

The primary pearl clutchers appear to be other Finnish politicians, though New York Times journalist Astead Herndon pointed out the real issue at hand: “The problem is the leak. A PM needs better friends.”

Of course, Marin is far from the only politician who’s ever partied their face off while in office. My very own mayor, Eric Adams, loves a party, and he’s in charge of a city of over 8 million people (versus Finland’s national population of 5.5 million). I would embrace my Party Mayor wholeheartedly—except that the parties he attends are sponsored by bank initiatives designed to push consumers further into debt, and his tenure as mayor has been marked by targeting homeless people, cutting the city’s school budget, and throwing police at every problem instead of addressing its root causes. If Adams adapted some of Marin’s proposals—perhaps her policy of guaranteeing childcare until age 7, or extending Finland’s generous maternity leave benefits to parents who didn’t give birth—I would stand outside Gracie Mansion cheering on Mr. Mayor as he stumbles home at 3 a.m.

As this latest Marin incident shows, the woman perfectly embodies Nordic culture’s enviable work-life balance. She has a high pressure job and a 4-year-old child and a killer social life. But perhaps some of Marin’s appeal also lies in the fact that she’s just a refreshing break from the American gerontocracy: We currently have five senators in their 80s and only one under 40. It’s hard for a governing body to relate to its people when it represents such a narrow sliver of them.

But back to Marin: Her personal life first made international headlines in December, when she went dancing until 4 a.m. and left her phone at home, missing a text that told her to self-isolate after she’d come into close contact with someone who’d tested positive for covid. (Remember the days when governments recommended that?) My immediate reaction to this story was one of awe: I wish I could leave my phone for hours at a time and not develop anxiety hives. That being said, you should probably have your phone with you if it could help you prevent the spread of covid. Luckily, she tested negative and avoided being nicknamed Superspreader Sanna.

In the eight months since, Marin’s become more of a fixture on the global stage than she might have reasonably expected (and not just because of her love of dancing): Finland shares an 860-mile border with Russia, and following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, her government officially applied to join NATO in May.

Marin appears, by my personal estimation, to be walking the line quite well between partying and political leadership. So instead of demanding that she pee in a cup to prove her purity and virtue, let’s take a gander at both.

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