Thursday. 28.09.2023

What is happening to Sanna Marin?

Government announced Thursday that the Prime Minister extends her sick leave due to "a cold." This is the third time in a month that she has been absent from her duties. Her withdrawal has been preceded by controversy.


Prime Minister Sanna Marin (center) arriving for a Government meeting. Photo: Lauri Heikkinen/Vnk.

Finland will have to go on without the leadership of the head of government at least for a few days more. Prime Minister Sanna Marin will continue to be on sick leave this week. 

The government said last Monday that Prime Minister Marin was canceling all her official activity "due to a cold." 

The release added that she would be on sick leave "for at least the beginning of the week"

But four days later that "cold" refuses to let the prime minister return to her duties. According to a second statement issued Thursday by the Government Communications Office, now the sick leave will last "at least until the end of this week."

"The Prime Minister's programme for the next few days has been cancelled," the statement says, adding that "any deputy arrangements will be made on case-by-case basis."

The government also says that, as a precautionary measure, Sanna Marin underwent a coronavirus test and the result was negative. 

But Marin's continued withdrawals have sparked concern among Finnish population. Is it just a cold or is it something else?

That is the question asked by many Finns. Some say that the Prime Minister may be exhausted. Others wonder if it might be something more serious, or simply believe that she has caught a cold and wish her a speedy recovery.

Third time out of office in one month

Either way, this is the third time in a little over a month that the Prime Minister has withdrawn from her responsibilities. And her withdrawals have coincided with controversies linked to her political decisions or with demands for explanations from opposition leaders.

On 23 April, Marin announced that she was switching to working remotely due to possible exposure to the coronavirus while the Finnish press linked her spouse to the scandal of Business Finland's subsidies to large consulting firms.

Despite the strict isolation standards applied to the general population, the Prime Minister returned to her office the next day to attend a children's press conference.

On Thursday 7 May, the entire government was put to work remotely due to two ministers' alleged exposure to the coronavirus two days earlier. On that occasion, the withdrawal coincided with a complicated turn of parliamentary questions in the agenda. All ministers returned to work normally the next day.

The longest absence

This week's is the longest absence of the prime minister since the Covid-19 crisis erupted and the Government declared a state of emergency. And it has been preceded by other three controversies.

The first one was the crossfire with the leader of the opposition National Coalition Party (Kokoomus), Petteri Orpo, who accused the government of causing "uncertainty" with the so-called "hybrid strategy" to confront the de-escalation process.



The second controversy came after the government was accused of concealing documents about the management of the crisis and the information used as the basis for some decisions.

In relation to this matter, last Saturday the Prime Minister announced on Twitter that "all background data and calculations on which the decision-making was based, with their assumptions and parameters," would be disclosed.


Frictions within the Government

The third reason for controversy would be the friction within the five-party government with the Finance Minister and leader of the Center Party (Keskusta) Katri Kulmuni, reported by Finnish press these days.

"Marin is said to be a leader whose best qualities do not include listening and tolerating opposing opinions," Iltalehti columnist Sanna Ukkola wrote in an article on these friction published Thursday.

All in all, not everything is bad news for the prime minister.

According to a recent Alma Media poll, her popularity increased considerably during the pandemic, with her party (SDP) overtaking the True Finns (Perusuomalaiset).

What is happening to Sanna Marin?