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Friday's papers: Malmi airport, honest Helsinki and SDP presidential conundrum

The press on Friday covers a colourful parliamentary debate over a historic airport in Helsinki, a social experiment testing the honesty of Helsinki residents, and the Social Democrats' difficulty in finding a candidate for the 2018 presidential election.

Helsinki-Malmin lentoasema.
The fate of Malmi airport hangs in the balance as a last-ditch bid to save it goes before parliament. Image: Derrick Frilund / Yle

Helsinki's historic Malmi Airport has been written off many times before, but it seems that its supporters still have some fight in them yet. The airport, which was founded in 1936, serves hobby pilots and flights schools, along with small aircraft, and is much closer to the city centre than the city's main airport in Vantaa.

In 2014 it was handed over to the municipality of Helsinki for the construction of much-needed housing, and the airport's friends seemed to have lost their fight. The last chances, it seems, is a citizens' initiative advocating a 'Lex Malmi' in which the government would take back control of the airport and preserve it for general aviation, and that was covered in detail in Helsingin Sanomat on Friday.

That initiative was heard in parliament on Thursday and the debate brought some colourful interventions from MPs as well as a declaration from Centre Party leader, Prime Minister and keen hobby pilot Juha Sipilä that "this government is ready to save Malmi airport" if it could find an agreement with the municipality of Helsinki.perhaps involving 'land swaps'.

That was news to Helsinki decision-makers, who swiftly took to Twitter to wonder at the premier's statements. Deputy Mayor Anni Sinnemäki of the Green Party asked whether the government was ready to hand over the military island of Santahamina for housebuilding, as that was the only equivalent plot in a suitable location.

National Coalition heavyweight Jan Vapaavuori, who recently announced he'd run for the position of Mayor of Helsinki in the forthcoming local election, chimed in questioning Sipilä's desire to interfere in municipal politics. And then NCP leader and Finance Minister Petteri Orpo announced on Twitter that no, the government has not agreed any course of action to save Malmi airport.

A HS editorial summed up the mood of most politicians in the capital, stating that housebuilding should start in Malmi and politicians should now focus on finding a place for hobby pilots to move to.

Trustworthy Helsinki

Hesari also runs a report on a social experiment designed to test Helsinki residents' honesty. The test is simple: letters were left close to post boxes, with addresses and postage paid, and researchers waited to see how many ended up at their destination after passers-by picked them up and put them in the mail.

The upshot is that Helsinki is extraordinarily honest. When a similar experiment was conducted in Chicago, between 0 and 80 percent of the letters were delivered, depending on the area. In Helsinki, no single district got a delivery rate lower than 67 percent.

What's more, social deprivation was not such a big factor as elsewhere: researchers expected that lower-income areas were not much less likely to return the letters than high-income, low-unemployment neighbourhoods.

The most honest area was found to be Herttoniemenranta, which has an unemployment rate of 12.3 percent, while the least honest district was Jakomäki, where 19.7 percent of residents are jobless.

SDP president problem

All of the papers report on SDP MP Jutta Urpilainen's decision not to run for president in 2018. The former party leader had been in the running for the nomination, and all the indications are the party would have loved for her to have taken on the role, but she announced on Thursday that she did not want to campaign for the job while her family is still so young (she adopted a child just last year).

That leaves a candidate-sized hole in the Social Democrats' planning for 2018, and it seems difficult to fill. Current president Sauli Niinistö has a towering lead in every poll, so the task of opposing him could be rather thankless--and the SDP seems to have few volunteers.

Ilta-Sanomat suggests that, given the long list of SDP refuseniks, they might seek a candidate from outside politics: Governor of the Bank of Finland Erkki Liikanen has been an SDP man, and has been floated as a potential name. Other options include the Bishop of Helsinki Irja Askola, according to IS, but it may be that the party has great difficulty in finding its own candidate.

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