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Video of Finnish prime minister partying sparks outrage — and applause

Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin speaks with members of the media in Kuopio, Finland, on Aug. 18. (Matias Honkamaa/Lehtikuva/via Reuters)

Germany’s Bild newspaper named Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin the “coolest politician in the world” last week, calling the 36-year-old leader “casual, modern and self-confident” as she navigates the threat from Russia — and also attends music festivals with her friends.

But now that reputation appears to have landed her in hot water after footage of Marin partying at a private event was leaked online.

In a series of clips posted to Instagram, which emerged on Wednesday, Marin and other partygoers are shown bopping along to Finnish pop music — and when the beat drops, they break out into dance.

The room is coated in the purple haze of neon party lights, which illuminate Marin as she hugs friends, kneels on the floor and sings along to songs.

As the videos circulated online this week, some critics called her behavior childish, while others accused her of not staying focused on Finland’s cost-of-living crisis.

But many others paused and asked: What’s all the fuss? Analysts say that Marin’s age and gender — and the intersection between the two — make her a particular target for criticism in a world led mostly by older men.

“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,” Marin said Thursday, the BBC reported.

A leaked video of Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin dancing with friends sparked outrage. But how does a night out turn into a national scandal? (Video: Alexa Juliana Ard, Leila Barghouty/The Washington Post)

She said the videos were private and filmed in a private space. “I resent that these became known to the public,” Reuters quoted her as saying.

It wasn’t the first time Marin, a member of Finland’s Social Democratic Party, has been “caught” partying. In December, she apologized for another incident in which she stayed out at a Helsinki nightclub until 4 a.m. without her cellphone. While she was out, an alert was sent to Marin’s phone to let her know she was a close contact of someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. (She did not end up contracting it.)

Finland’s prime minister apologizes after partying all night despite coronavirus exposure

Her political rivals seized on the new videos this week, calling on Marin to undergo voluntary drug screenings. “The people are also allowed to expect this from their prime minister,” said Mikko Karna, a member of Parliament from the Center party.

Marin fired back, telling local outlet Yle that she was willing to take a drug test. “I have not used drugs myself, or anything other than alcohol. I’ve danced, sung and partied and done perfectly legal things,” she added.

An editorial in Finland’s Helsingin Sanomat newspaper argued that her partying was a security risk.

“The prime minister can, in a sensitive situation, put the weapons of information warfare in the hands of those who would like to hurt Finland,” the editorial said. “There may be more leaks. If not now, then at the next party.”

Marin was the world’s youngest sitting national leader when she was elected in 2019 at age 34. Her victory placed her in a small but powerful group of presidents and prime ministers who were elected in their 30s, including New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern and El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele.

As Finnish prime minister, Marin succeeded Antti Rinne, who was born in 1962; and before him, Juha Sipilä, who was born in 1961. Marin was born more than two decades later, in 1985.

Change in Finland: A government led by five women and the world’s youngest prime minister

Marin’s position in the executive office alone “disrupts what people have historically been comfortable with in terms of age and gender (older men),” Sara Angevine, a political scientist at Whittier College, said in an email.

Bettina Spencer, a professor at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, In., said that young women leaders are scrutinized more harshly than their older male counterparts.

“Young leaders are not taken seriously based on stereotypes about age. Women leaders are not taken seriously based on stereotypes about gender. Young women leaders are especially not taken seriously because of the intersection of their age and gender,” Spencer said.

“As such, they receive harsher scrutiny for any behaviors that reinforce the belief that they may not be ‘serious,’ and that includes simply dancing with friends at a private event,” she said.

But not everyone was critical of Marin for letting loose — and instead applauded what they said was the prime minister “proving when you work hard, you can play hard.”

Someone else on Twitter asked: “is Sanna Marin the only chief executive on earth to have documented friends.”