A private video of Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin partying with friends was made public midweek, causing much debate in Finland. Discussions sparked from the event, so Italehti reached out to Emeritus Professor Ari Salminen, who has studied administration and management ethics, for an in-depth analysis. First of all, in Finland The Minister’s handbook published by the Cabinet of Ministers (VNK) in 2019 provides instructions on how the Cabinet, i.e. a member of the Government, should behave. The section on page 70 of The Minister’s handbook talks about civil servants, but the same instructions also apply to ministers: due to their position, all civil servants must behave properly and in accordance with general propriety requirements even outside of their official duties. The Prime Minister is the most influential person in Finland, an institution, but also an example for Finns of all ages, whose actions and words have a huge meaning for a large number of people. Does the Prime Minister have to be in sharp decision-making condition all the time?
According to Professor Emeritus Salminen, a Prime Minister (just like all leading politicians) who is spending his/her free time, should be able to quickly get back into ‘work mode’ and react appropriately if the situation demands it, for example if a very serious crisis were to arise or because of surprising political decision-making situations. Salminen adds that working in public service brings certain expectations about how a person should behave: for example, policemen are policemen also in their spare time, during which they cannot act in any way they like. According to Salminen, The Minister’s handbook, that is not a legal text, is in principle mandatory but its instructions are deliberately written ‘loosely’ so that every minister can use their own judgment as to ‘how best to act’ in any given situation. So, should the Prime Minister be expected to behave more properly than an ordinary citizen even in his/her free time? Ultimately, this is about the politician’s credibility in the eyes of citizens and voters, and in international contexts, for example in negotiations as Finland’s representative. Looking at the Prime Minister’s judgment from the outside, it anyway seems that the best possible consideration has not been involved: even if politicians have always spent their free time in whatever way, it should be always factored in that today the publicity of social media is a lot harder for the politicians on display. It is quite difficult to completely prevent situations as the leakage of a private video: the best way to avoid embarrassing videos is not to appear in them. Read more on Italehti