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Friday's papers: Hijab hate, political "purges" and Green leadership vote

Friday's papers discuss Saturday's Green League chairman vote, the prejudice Muslim women face and hate crimes, and the continuing drama in the Finns Party.

Suaad Onniselkä juttelee oppilaidensa kanssa Vesalan koulussa 8.5.2017.
Suaad Onniselkä with students at Vesala upper secondary school. Image: Jari Kovalainen

The Green League is set to choose a new chair to replace incumbent Ville Niinistö this Saturday. According to a survey by Helsingin Sanomat, the majority of members are still indecisive over their pick. Of the six candidates up for election, MP Emma Kari polled the highest at 15 percent among the general population.  MP Touko Aalto came second at 10 percent. Among party members, a quarter announced they supported Kari in her bid for chairmanship.  A similar poll by Aamulehti placed Aalto first.

Unsurprisingly, all the candidates for the role said fighting climate change was their main priority, reveals Aamulehti’s questionnaire.

Candidates will have to campaign hard to make themselves household names like predecessor Ville Niinistö; 65 percent of Finns did not know who the candidates even where, similar to 46 percent of Green League supporters. 

Hate crimes on the rise

Helsingin Sanomat tackles the prejudice hijab-wearing Muslim women have to face and the growing number of racist hate crimes on its front page. The daily interviews Angela Olsson, a young woman who converted to Islam at 17. Olsson says she experiences harassment and discrimination because of her headscarf on a regular basis, as do many other Muslim women.

Another interviewee, Suaad Onniselkä, a teacher at Vesala upper secondary school, says she does not believe racism and the rise of the Finns Party correlate.

"Racism is not a new thing in Finland, but comes in waves. Usually it can be explained by poor economic situations," Onniselkä tells the paper.

The latest statistic about hate crimes are from 2015, and saw their amount rise by half in Helsinki from the previous year. Statistic show that in Helsinki, 45.7 racist hate crimes were registered per 100,000 residents, while the figure was 22.6 in Espoo and 22.4 in Vantaa. A total of 1250 hate crimes were reported in Finland that year.

But only 20 percent of hate crimes are believed to be actually reported to police however, a researcher interviewed by the paper points out.

Finns Party purge

Members of the parliamentary group New Alternative have started what Ilta-Sanomat calls a ”purge”. The group consists of ministers belonging to the moderate wing of the populist Finns Party, who defected after right-wing nationalist Jussi Halla-aho assumed the role of Finns Party chairman.

New Alternative ministers have fired assistants and other staff loyal to Halla-aho. Minister of Economic Affairs and Employment Jari Lindström had to let three of his assistants go, and several other staff members have been caught in crossfire between the two groups, having to make a snap decision about where their loyalties lie. 

Former Finns Party chair Timo Soini accuses the far-right nationalist group Suomen Sisu of orchestrating the rupture of the party.

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