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Tuesday's papers: Undecided voters, Bandidos arrest, defence industry bonanza and food aid

Newspapers in Finland are talking about potential turnout at the upcoming elections, a high-profile motorcycle gang arrest, domestic defence industry outlooks and growing numbers of church-distributed food assistance on Tuesday.

Kuntavaalien ennakkoäänestyslappua laitetaan kirjekuoreen
Local elections are around the corner. Image: Yle

Finland's leading newspaper Helsingin Sanomat tackles the issue of voter turnout in the lead-up to the April 9 local elections. 2017 is promising to be an interesting election year, as a recent HS poll found a full 43 percent of respondents were either not planning to vote, or hadn't yet decided who to vote for. Every third eligible voter reports not being able to decide between two parties.

A graphic in the paper's story shows that 79 percent of eligible voters cast a vote in the 1976 municipal elections, after which voter turnout steadily fell to a low of 55 percent in 2000. In the last municipal elections in 2012, the voting percentage was 58 percent.

University of Tampere director Sami Borg says the fact that the elections have been moved to April might improve participation. Academy Research Fellow Peter Söderlund says voting percentages stayed relatively high in Finland until the 1990s, largely because the basic political concepts were familiar to everyone and family history and social status still played a big part in people's political affiliation.

Today only six percent of Finns are members of political parties and young people are far less invested than previous generations, HS says. In the last local elections, only one-third of voters under 25 went to the polls, and even 25-34 years olds couldn't surpass a 40 percent turnout. 

Researcher Jussi Westinen tells the paper that only one in six young people even know their parents' political leanings, as political discussions in the home are waning. HS says the issue is complicated by the fact that many parties have lost a clear message as to what they represent. For example, in their online questionnaire designed to match potential voters with suitable candidates, the paper's staff tried to come up with questions that would place parties squarely on one side of the issue or the other.

On the question "Is 'home, religion and fatherland' a good value base for politics?", half of the candidates from the Social Democratic Party and the Swedish People's Party said yes and the other half said no.

Gang kingpin nabbed

The Aamulehti paper out of Tampere reports that the leader of Finland's Bandidos motorcycle club was arrested Monday evening at the Arlanda airport in Sweden. The 40-year-old male was taken into custody as soon as he stepped off a plane from Thailand. A representative of the Swedish police says the wanted man was considered dangerous and had a long history of violence in Finland. The man led the club, which has connections to the underworld, from Tampere and is suspected of bringing 25 kilos of amphetamines and cocaine into Finland in autumn 2016.

Aamulehti says the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reports that the arrest was the result of cooperation between the Finnish and Swedish police, and the authorities believed that the man had arrived in Sweden to go into hiding and resume a drug trade. Aftonbladet says the man will be extradited to Finland for trial.

Small defence companies look to win

The paper out of southwest Turku, Turun Sanomat, features an article on budget increases that promise good times ahead for Finland's defence contractors. Winning tenders could determine the future success of many small Finnish companies. The Finnish defence, aerospace and security industry is represented by AFDA, the Association of Finnish Defence and Aerospace Industries. Chairman Olli Isotalo is certain that rising defence spending the world over will have a positive effect on the Finnish defence material industry. Upcoming renewal of fighter jet and Navy boat fleets will be important, but gains in weapons and defence technology exports are also expected.

Finland's largest player in the defence market is Patria, which is 50.1 percent owned by the Finnish government. It recorded a 46.8 million euro operating profit in 2015. Isotalo says the entire turnover of the Finnish defence industry is approximately 700 million euros, with Patria's armoured wheeled vehicles, Nammo ammunition and Sako rifles accounting for the most sales.

More food aid

And the newspaper Savon Sanomat out of Kuopio starts Tuesday with a story on parishes in Finland offering food support.

Churches in Finland distributed food aid to over 100,000 Finns last year, in addition to coordinating the distribution of close to 750,000 kilos of food from the EU. New figures show that over 11,000 meals were served in parishes and over 100,000 bags of groceries were given out in over 300 different locations. According to the distributors, people receiving assistance were single parents, low-income families, people on basic social assistance, part-time workers and pensioners with poor income.

Collection director Tapio Pajunen of Kirkkopalevut, a central organisation of 346 Evangelical Lutheran Church parishes, 58 Christian organisations and 21 academic institutions, says the hardest part of the work is to see families that have needed to use the services for several generations. Kirkkopalvelut has been in charge of distributing EU food aid in Finland since 1996. The food selection has become more diverse over the years, with greater consideration for health effects. The current staples are flour, porridge, pasta, crisp bread, muesli, and prepared foods like pea soup and canned meat.

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