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Friday's papers: Harkimo fallout, sote speculation and a Ukrainian refugee

Friday's press carries reaction to Thursday's resignation of a National Coalition Party MP, speculation about how that might affect the government's flagship reform, and a Ukrainian refugee.

Harry Hjallis Harkimo tiedotustilaisuudessa eduskunnan valtiosalissa Helsingissä.
Harry Harkimo arriving at a press conference in parliament on Thursday. Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

On Thursday Harry 'Hjallis' Harkimo announced his decision to resign from the National Coalition Party and sit as an independent MP. Harkimo had criticised party leader Petteri Orpo, while calling him a 'friend', and said he would found a new political movement. 

Ilta-Sanomat quickly identified the new association, which is called 'Liike Nyt', was registered on Wednesday and lists Harkimo as a founder. It is expected to promote new forms of interaction between politicians and the public, and pursue a 'market liberal' agenda.

Orpo said he regretted Harkimo's decision but wasn't surprised, added that Harkimo should have debated more within the NCP group in parliament, said it's better to be part of a team than strike out on your own and also called Harkimo his friend. 

Of the editorials covering Harkimo's move, Helsingin Sanomat questioned whether there was a 'market liberal' shaped space in the political landscape, given that the Greens and NCP occupy much of that territory, and noted that new parties have struggled to gain a foothold in Finland. 

Iltalehti followed a similar line, comparing the new movement to the similarly liberal 'Young Finns' who folded in 1999, suggesting MPs who might share Harkimo's world view but were 'too realistic' to move away from the party machines. 

Sote solutions?

IS, meanwhile, focused on the problems this now causes the NCP. Orpo's authority is weakened and a new 'market liberal' political force could threaten the party's recent electoral success. 

More immediately, IS considered the flagship reform of health and social care. Assuming Harkimo votes against the big healthcare reform bill in June, the government's MPs would number just 103 in the 200-member parliament thanks to Elina Lepomäki's previously-announced opposition to the package. 

She told Talouselämä on Thursday that she wished the new movement luck, but she wasn't about to join. She did say, however, that she expected the reform bill to be voted down in parliament. She does not, however, think that would bring new elections, saying that 'nobody in parliament wants that'.

Seeking asylum

Iltalehti has a story about a Ukrainian 'citizen journalist' who is currently seeking asylum in Finland. Alexander Medinski served in the special forces in the Ukrainian military between 2015 and 2016, but says he grew disillusioned with corruption and smuggling he saw there. 

He left the military and founded the 'Open Ukraine' YouTube channel, which he says is a citizen journalism initiative that the Ukrainian authorities do not like. He says he fears persecution in Ukraine because of his journalism, but claims not to be pro-Russia. He says he rejects the annexation of Crimea, and does not support the rebels in eastern Ukraine.

In his view Ukraine is divided into three camps. Those who want to be as close as possible to NATO and the west, those who feel that way about Russia, and those in the middle who want to strike a balance. He believes he's in this centre grouping, trying not to tilt too far one way or the other. 

"Like Finland," he tells IL.

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