There is an undeniable element of sexism and ageism to the opprobrium heaped on Finland’s Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, after a video of her uninhibitedly enjoying herself at a party surfaced earlier this month.


What is the issue?

  • At 36, Marin is one of the youngest heads of government in the world and since her tenure began in 2019, she has been a popular and also polarising figure in domestic politics.
  • Take, for instance, the demands by Opposition leaders, and even from her political allies, that she take a “voluntary drug test” after the party video surfaced.
  • Boris Johnson, who blatantly lied about flouting Covid-19 protocols at 10 Downing Street while the UK was under harsh pandemic restrictions, did not face any such questions.
  • Marin has now apologised — she had also issued an apology for a visit to a club in December 2021 after being exposed to a Covid-positive person.


The ethical dilemmas

  • There is much that is problematic in the targeting of Marin for her alleged indiscretions but the defence that has been offered on her behalf — that this is just “what people her age do”, or that the party was a private affair — only turns the spotlight on a larger question: For people in public life in the age of social media, where must the line be drawn between the public and private?
  • On the one hand, young and tech-savvy politicians like Marin have used social media to their great benefit. For those from the generation that has grown up with the internet, this may seem perfectly natural. Yet it is also true that the public image of a political leader often needs to serve a broader constituency, including among other world leaders, and the notion that “this version of me is informal, apolitical and private” while the more rehearsed or choreographed moments are meant for the public at large, may not be as easy to define.
  • There are also questions about security — and not just so-called propriety — that arise from the prime ministerial judgement, or lack of it, shown in letting down her guard among people who would then make images and videos of a private party public.


Way forward

The rise of social media is changing politics, and also politicians. Not all sections of society have caught up with these transformations wrought by technology, and many of the old shibboleths around the public and private spheres need to be rethought and re-articulated. That debate needs sober conversation and deliberation, not the hurried virtue signalling of Partygate.


SourceThe Indian Express


QUESTION – What is the ‘private-public’ debate in governance? How one ought to define these spheres in the modern age? Discuss the ethical dilemmas attached to it in context of the recent party controversy of the Finnish Prime Minister.