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Friday's papers: Laying Finland's beloved stevedore statesman to rest, a scandal for MEP Halla-aho and a lost passenger

Finland's print press on Friday discusses the funeral proceedings for Former President Mauno Koivisto, news of Finns Party bigwig Jussi Halla-aho's illegitimate child and a ferry passenger falling overboard off the Turku coast.

Tellervo Koivisto kirkossa arkun äärellä.
Former First Lady Tellervo Koivisto pays her respects. Image: Yle

The country's leading daily Helsingin Sanomat features a long column from reporter Jaakko Lyytinen on the funeral of Former President Mauno Koivisto, saying that "no one will ever unite the nation in the way he did". Koivisto died at the Meilahti hospital on May 12 at the age of 93, and he was buried yesterday alongside his fellow statesmen at the Hietaniemi Cemetery in Helsinki.

Lyytinen writes that when news of Koivisto's death broke, stories of people's interactions with him were shared far and wide. Someone had run into him on the street, another had written him a letter. The common thread in all of these memories was that they were all good ones: a reminder, he writes, of the united nation that the venerated leader had once bound together successfully. 

Sisu embodied

Mauno Koivisto was President of Finland from 1982 to 1994. During that time, Finland's position in the world was fundamentally changed. His life story, Lyytinen writes, was exemplary of Finnish 'sisu' – tenacity and guts. It was also one of talent and social mobility.

He was born in poverty in southwest Turku and his mother died of a stroke when he was 10. He started working to help out his widowed father, taking odd jobs in a bakery, grocery and sawmill. In 1939, at the age of 16 he volunteered for the Winter War. After the wars he returned to Turku, working as a carpenter and at the shipyards. He finished upper secondary school while he was working. He wrote his PhD thesis on the social relationships of the Turku docks in 1956. 

Mauno Koivisto was a popular politician in Finland long before he became president, Lyytinen writes, but for many Finns their understanding of the man "grew deeper and more complex" as he aged. He suspects this was also in part due to the former president's spouse, Tellervo Koivisto, who spoke openly in interviews and an autobiography about the couple's courtship and marriage. In particular, she shared how her husband stood by her side through a difficult bout of depression in the 1990s.

Lyytinen writes that as he watched Tellervo place flowers on her husband's coffin Thursday, he found it strange to see her standing alone. "They were always together: Mauno and Tellervo, " he writes.

Ninth president

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat also reports on the the funeral, saying that Finland's beloved former president was laid to rest between Risto Ryti and Urho Kekkonen, two other important presidents in the country's history. IS says Koivisto was "a breath of fresh air" after 26 years of Kekkonen, and agreed with current President Sauli Niinistö's assessment that the Turku statesman's terms could be considered to be the start of a "Second Republic", when Finland turned its attentions to the West.

IS says that the touching proceedings in the Hietaniemi Cemetery were also an important reminder of how far Finland has come in just 100 years: "Mauno Koivisto was only our ninth president."

Halla-aho's fifth child comes to light

And now for something completely different: Finland's second major tabloid Iltalehti delves into a scandal that broke on Wednesday: a woman has come forward to claim that she has been Finns Party MEP Jussi Halla-aho's secret lover for the past eight years, and that Halla-aho is the father of her child.

Halla-aho commented on Facebook on May 24: "I've made mistakes in my private life that I cannot undo. I've asked forgiveness from those who are associated with the matter and I have lived with the consequences as best I can. I have recognized the child and taken care of my responsibilities in this regard. There is nothing to explain or defend in what I did. On the other hand, the fact that it has become public is embarrassing for those who are innocent of any wrongdoing. For their sakes I have decided to not comment on the matter any further."

The periodical Suomen Kuvalehti broke the story on Wednesday, after the child's mother posted a photo of the child with Halla-aho on Facebook. The scoop couldn't have come at a worse time for Halla-aho, who is seeking leadership of his populist Finns Party in June. In an A-studio interview the same day, the MEP said that issue coming to light now could "hardly be a coincidence".

The child's mother told IL that she didn't intend to sabotage Halla-aho's campaign with her post, saying "… in a way, I am a supporter of Jussi. I wish him success." She says she posted the picture because Halla-aho has consistently under-reported the amount of children he has to the public. Halla-aho married his wife Hilla in 2002 and they have four children. His child born out of wedlock was born in 2015. IL reports that the woman says Hilla was informed about her child a few months after it was born.

The woman claims that she and Halla-aho have had a relationship for eight years, after first exchanging messages online. She says they haven't seen each other for "over a week", but still send each other messages daily.

Galaxy man overboard

And the southwest newspaper Turun Sanomat reports this Friday that a passenger on the Silja Galaxy ferry fell into the sea at 4:45 am and search parties are combing the Lövskärinselkä area near Parainen in an effort to find the victim. The ship's crew noticed the incident immediately and notified the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Turku of a missing person. Several nearby ships and a Coast Guard helicopter are also assisting with the search. After one hour without success, the commercial vehicles were told they could continue their journey, as the authorities would carry on alone.

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