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Veteran political reporter criticises 'secrecy' in government formation talks

There have been relatively few leaks during these talks about the policy content agreed by the party negotiators, according to political journalist Unto Hämäläinen.

Image shows political journalist Unto Hämäläinen on Yle TV1's current affairs programme A-Studio.
Veteran political journalist Unto Hämäläinen appeared on Yle TV1's current affairs programme A-Studio on Monday evening.
Yle News

The ongoing negotiations aimed at forming Finland's next government are unprecedented in terms of the level of secrecy surrounding them, veteran political journalist Unto Hämäläinen told Yle TV1's A-Studio current affairs programme on Monday evening.

"We don't really know anything about the events of the past month. These are the most secretive government negotiations ever," Hämäläinen said, adding that he was puzzled as to the reasons why the talks have been conducted in such a clandestine way.

The negotiations entered their fifth week on Monday.

As a point of reference, Hämäläinen noted that during the previous coalition formation talks in 2019, led by Antti Rinne (SDP), so much information was leaked to the media that the government programme had been thoroughly documented in the press long before it was agreed by the parties involved.

One example of the secrecy of the current negotiations was evident at the weekend, when the Swedish People's Party (SPP) demanded changes to draft policies on immigration which had been agreed in principle by the three other parties.

National Coalition Party (NCP) chair Petteri Orpo, who is leading the talks as PM-designate, said later on Saturday that agreement had been reached on the issue but declined to reveal any further information as to what aspects were in contention or how they were resolved.

During a media briefing on Tuesday afternoon, Orpo was asked by a reporter about the code of silence that seems to overshadow the talks and the NCP leader responded that he had told each of the parties that negotiations should take place in the House of the Estates, not in public.

"I think that when the negotiations are in progress, making things public can only complicate reaching a solution," Orpo said.

Some media reports have suggested that the SPP requested, and received, lines in the immigration policy draft about respecting Finland's constitution and the rights of children, but this has not been officially verified.

"We have a funny situation where we're racking our brains to work out what additions the SPP has made to the documents, but no one knows what's in them," Hämäläinen said.

SPP "like a cat that always falls on its feet"

Although the coalition talks appeared to be back on course despite Saturday's bump in the road, SPP youth wing leader Julia Ståhle caused a stir on Monday when she walked out of the negotiations.

She later told reporters that the proposed programme for government no longer reflects the goals of her party, or its youth wing, adding that her branch of the SPP had never supported going into government with the Finns Party.

In addition, the party's MP Eva Biaudet told the Demokraatti newspaper that she had tried several times to give up her seat at the immigration policy negotiating table.

SPP's leader, Anna-Maja Henriksson, accused her potential coalition partners — the Finns Party and the National Coalition — of plotting immigration policy without the input of her party. Henriksson also denied that the compromise reached over the weekend had eroded internal support for the party's participation in government formation talks.

She further noted that the SPP would only decide on its participation in any future possible coalition once the final programme has been completed, leading to speculation that the SPP may, after all, not be part of the next government.

"The SPP is like a cat. It always falls back on its feet. There's no need to worry about the SPP, because it's doing well in this environment," Hämäläinen said, adding that the other parties need the SPP in order to form a viable majority in Finland's 200-seat parliament.

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