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Friday's papers: Welfare benefit reform, Harkimo hits the market square and Kärpät title celebrations

Friday's newspapers include reports on the next major reform in Finnish public policy, a not-so-new trick from political innovators, and an ice hockey championship.

Kärppien Suomen mestaruutta juhlitaan Oulussa.
Image: Timo Heikkala / Lehtikuva

Finland's travails in trying to reform its social and healthcare system are well-documented, but they may be coming to an end with the government's plan heading for a vote in parliament in June. Those desperate for detailed policy discourse need not worry, however, as the next major reform debate is already underway.

Helsingin Sanomat reports that the office of the Prime Minister is already working alongside interest organisations and representatives from all parliamentary parties to reform Finland's system of unemployment benefits under a project known as 'Toimi'. The groups are a long way from finding consensus, and indeed many participants have contradictory goals according to co-ordinator Katri Heinämäki.

"Cherry-picking is often the preference," Heinämäki told HS. "For example there's a desire for a simple system, which is also means-tested. Means-testing always requires that an applicant's means are tested, which means a certain level of complexity in the system."

Nordea economist Olli Kärkkäinen chimes in too, saying that the parties mostly fall on either side of a divide on conditionality. The SDP and National Coalition want to require recipients to work or study to be eligible for benefits, while the Greens prefer a basic income model.

The Centre Party in theory advocates a basic income model, but in practice has implemented the highly-conditional 'activation model' in government and denied researchers the means to expand their basic income trial.

Political innovators offer traditional market square meetings (but no free buckets)

Another big political story this week has been the defection of National Coalition MP Harry 'Hjallis' Harkimo to leave the party and sit as an independent, backed by a web-based movement called 'Liike Nyt' (roughly translated as 'Let's Move!', which is perhaps an invocation of Emmanuel Macron's 'En Marche' insurgency in France).

Organisers want an online audience to read, debate and vote on issues each week, with Harkimo's vote in parliament decided by the result. Iltalehti reports that some 8,000 people have signed up so far, according to founder Mikael Jungner, and the key figures involved are set to head out into the real world to meet some actual voters.

They've decided to go to Kuopio market square at the same time as cross-country skier Iivo Niskanen hosts a post-season celebration. Riding the coattails of winter sports stars and campaigning in market squares are quite traditional Finnish political strategies, but Jungner says his group will differ in one key aspect: there'll be no free sausages, pea soup or other catering to tempt sceptical citizens into engaging with the politicians.

There'll be no free buckets or speeches either, but Jungner says there may be a chance of a cup of coffee. The first debate and voting led decision is due on the Liike Nyt website next week.

Oulu celebrates title

Oulun Kärpät won the Finnish ice hockey championship on Wednesday, and local paper Kaleva was all over the story as you might expect. They defeated Tappara 1-0 in the sixth game of the best-of-seven final series, leaving the Tampere side deflated in their own Hakametsä arena.

The title was Kärpät's eighth overall and their first since 2015. Tappara won in 2016 and 2017, and you have to go all the way back to 2013 for a winner that wasn't Kärpät or Tappara. Kaleva has videos and reports from the celebrations in Oulu's main market square, as well as reaction from the game itself in Tampere.

The Kaleva photo gallery is a particular treasure for those who enjoy looking at pictures of celebrating Finnish hockey fans.

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