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Friday’s papers: Presidential race tightens, paternal leave under review, and Labradors still top dog

Domestic politics, transport and parental leave - and pandas - are among the subjects dominating Finland's print media on Friday.

Pyry, eli Hua Bao syö bambua saapuessaan Kiinasta Suomeen Helsinki-Vantaan lentokentällä.
Hua Bao aka Pyry arrived at snowy Helsinki Airport on Thursday. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

A second-round runoff in the presidential election appears more likely, says the Tampere daily Aamulehti.

A survey carried out for its Alma media group suggests that support for incumbent President Sauli Niinistö has declined by 12 percentage points from the previous poll. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they'll vote for Niinistö, down from 70 percent in December.

All the other candidates besides the Greens' Pekka Haavisto saw their backing grow. Haavisto's support has remained steady at 14 percent, making him the most likely to challenge Niinistö in a potential second round, which would occur if no candidate scores over 50 percent in the first round. Advance voting in the first round is already underway. The candidate seeing the biggest bump in popularity is independent Paavo Väyrynen, a Centre Party veteran whose support rose to seven percent from two percent in December, when he had just formally entered the race.

In the more immediate future, AL warns of poor driving conditions on Friday throughout southern and central Finland due to snow, which is being blown around gusty winds. Early Friday morning, temperatures in Tampere dropped to around -14 degrees Celsius, with much colder weather in store for early next week.

Kaleva: Stay-at-home Dads, slippery roads

Further north in Oulu, the daily Kaleva looks at paternal leave and a new study by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). It finds that replacements are rarely hired when men take time off work to care for children. Rather, these fathers' duties are simply distributed out among other employees during the time they are away, typically a few weeks.

According to researcher Johanna Närvi, workplaces generally take a positive view of men exercising their right to parental leave. However many dads feel that it would be difficult to stay off work for longer.

The government is now preparing a revision of parental leave laws. One of the aims is to encourage fathers to take more time off to care for newborns so that women can return to the workforce sooner.

The Oulu paper also looks at statistics for television viewing last year in Finland. As usual, the most popular televised event was the Independence Day ball at the Presidential Palace. Yle TV1's main evening news programme the day of Finland's centenary, December 6, attracted nearly 2.8 million views – or more than half the population. This made it the most-watched TV show of the 21st century so far. Close behind was the first part of the Independence Day gala itself, drawing just shy of 2.7 million viewers. A distant third was commercial channel MTV3's broadcast of a men's Ice Hockey World Championship semi-final between Finland and neighbouring Sweden, which was watched by just over 1.3 million people. On average, people in Finland watched TV for two hours and 48 minutes a day.

Metro: Pandas, Metro and Remu

The free commuter paper HS Metro, published by Helsingin Sanomat, devotes most of its front page to a large photo of a panda bear sitting in a glass travelling case amid a snowstorm at Helsinki Airport. It was the first glimpse of a pair of giant pandas leased by China to Finland. They have now taken up residence at Ähtäri Zoo in northern Finland. Their arrival weather was apt as they have been dubbed Lumi (Snow) and Pyry (Blizzard).

Also on Metro's front page: commuters in Espoo complaining about new Matinkylä transport hub, where two of three escalators carry people upward all the time – even during the morning rush hour, when the vast majority of travellers are heading down into the station for connections into Helsinki. Helsinki City Transport officials say it would be very difficult to switch the direction of one escalator during part of the day. Meanwhile passengers are also annoyed that one of the escalators at the central Helsinki metro station has been closed for repairs since November.

Metro's front page also features Finnish rock legend Remu, who is to play his farewell concert this weekend, as well the news that Labrador retrievers remain the country's most popular dog breed.

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