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Friday's papers: SDP slips in poll, new restaurant rules, basketball history

A fresh poll by Helsingin Sanomat shows support for the prime minister's party dropping as local elections approach.

Ravintola Juttutupa. 15.4.2021.
New restrictions on restaurant opening hours are to be announced on Friday. Image: Jorge Gonzalez / Yle

The latest voter poll, commissioned by the daily Helsingin Sanomat shows support for the Social Democratic Party has fallen below 20 percent for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The April HS-Gallup poll found the highest level of voter backing for the Finns Party at 21.6 percent. The Finns Party also ranked top in the paper's three previous polls.

Support for the second most popular party, the SDP, has fallen by 0.8 percentage points to 19.7 percent.

The April findings come at a time when residents would have already been able to cast advance votes in municipal elections had the election not been postponed. Municipal elections were originally scheduled to take place on Sunday, 18 April, but were postponed to 13 June over health concerns spurred by the coronavirus.

Right now, political parties are just starting to finalize their campaigns and the recruitment of candidates is still ongoing.

Helsingin Sanomat points out that it is not possible to draw a parallel between this poll and local election result projections, as it is focused on parliamentary election support. Still, it does provide an indication of the broad lines of party support and political sentiment.

One clear sign is probably that the situation right now favours the Finns Party. Its support has remained above 21 percent throughout the early part of the year.

The Finns Party has worked to turn the municipal elections into a vote on confidence in the national government, rather than the focusing on municipal policy.

Markku Jokisipilä, Director of the Center for Parliamentary Research at the University of Turku, told the paper that this approach can benefit the Finns Party

Another major conclusion to be drawn from the poll results is that the SDP can no longer rely on the coronavirus and the personal popularity of Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) to keep up voter support.

"You can see that the [political] capital of a fresh face and the rather widespread satisfaction with the government's actions to deal with the coronavirus is starting to be used up," said Jokisipilä.

In addition, Helsingin Sanomat notes, the opposition has criticized the government actions more actively of late than at the beginning of the crisis, something which is also likely to be reflected in voter support.

New opening hours

The tabloid Iltalehti reports that parliament gave its approval Thursday to new restrictions on restaurant opening hours in regions of the country in the acceleration or community spreading phases of the coronavirus epidemic.

The president is expected to ratify the law on Friday and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health will make a formal announcement of the new rules later during the day.

The chair of parliament's Committee on Social Affairs and Health, Markus Lohi (Cen), told Iltalehti that bars and pubs in areas affected by the regulations will be closed from 6 pm and dining restaurants from 7 pm beginning this coming Monday.

"It is unreasonable for dining restaurants to have to shut their doors during peak operating hours between six and nine. This is bad legislation," Lohi stated.

Lohi said he would have liked to have allowed dining restaurants in the acceleration and community spreading areas to remain open until 9PM. Commenting on the issue to Iltalehti, he made no effort to hide his frustration over the government's new restrictions.

"If you want to experience disappointments in life, then you should get involved in politics," said Markus Lohi.

Massive R&D investment

The farmers' union paper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus is among the morning papers carrying news of a plan by Minister of Finance Matti Vanhanen (Cen) to propose more state borrowing to finance a ten-billion euro, ten-year plan for Finnish government investment to boost research, development and innovation (RDI).

Vanhanen says that Finland is suffering from a "chronic investment deficit".

"It is important that the money is spent specifically on research and development. To this end, an R&D bank or fund should be set up to commit to RDI funding beyond the election periods. Another option would be to agree on a budget article for at least two parliamentary terms that cannot be altered," Vanhanen explained.

The finance minister added that he is well aware of the risks of increasing debt, when the state has already taken on an addition 20 billion because of the coronavirus crisis.

"However, Finland can no longer proceed on the path of cuts and tax increases, as in the aftermath of the financial crisis. We need to achieve growth, otherwise other the Nordic countries will leave us behind, " he added.

Vanhanen argues that recovery from the effects of the pandemic will lead to a burst of new growth in the global economy.

"Those who can offer new products and services as solutions to the climate crisis and sustainable use of natural resources will be able to compete. Hundreds of billions will be invested around the world in a green transition and digitalization in coming years," the finance minister predicted.

Making basketball history

National women's basketball team star Awak Kuier has made sports history as the first Finnish player to be picked up in the first round of the WNBA draft.

Story continues after the photo.

Awak Kuier STT Lehtikuva 16.4.2021
Awak Kuier. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

Kuier was the second choice of the Dallas Wings, who had both the first and second picks in the draft.

Ilta-Sanomat reports that the 19 year-old, 195-centimetre Kuier watched the draft from Italy where she is playing her first professional season.

Kuier was born in Egypt, where her parents fled from Sudan during the country’s civil war. The family moved to Kotka when Kuier was two years old. She has six siblings.

"I just want to say that I am so grateful to my father, my mother and siblings. I am grateful that I have a family that supports me in everything I do. I am so happy and grateful," Kuier said in a television interview immediately after the draft.

"I want to be a role model for young Finnish basketball players. I want to be an example that they can do this, too."

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