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Gov't parties’ summer gatherings overshadowed by health reform woes

The prime minister and finance minister are likely to face tough questions from their party faithful over a controversial plan to reform regional government, health and social services.

Juha Sipilä keskustan puoluekokouksen avajaisissa Sotkamossa
Prime Minister Juha Sipilä at the opening of the Centre Party congress in Sotkamo on 8 June. Image: Martti Kainulainen / Lehtikuva

The two main government parties, the Centre and the conservative National Coalition Party (NCP), began party conferences on Friday.

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's Centre is convening in Sotkamo, eastern Finland, while Finance Minister Petteri Orpo's conservatives are meeting at the Logomo centre in the south-western city of Turku. Both party leaders are expected to be easily re-elected for new terms.

Sipilä only has one challenger, Kotka police officer Vesa Levonen, after former honorary chair Paavo Väyrynen dropped plans to seek the post and then quit the party altogether.

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Anne-Mari Virolainen, Petteri Orpo ja Janne Sankelo
Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Anne-Mari Virolainen, Finance Minister and NCP chair Petteri Orpo and deputy chair Janne Sankelo in Turku on 8 June. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

However they will both face tough questions from their party faithful over the controversial plan to reform regional government, health and social services, known as sote. Orpo is to debate the plan with one of its fiercest critics, Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori, a veteran NCP politician who is leading an anti-sote revolt by the capital region’s cities.

An Alma Media poll out earlier on Friday suggests that less than one in five Finns support the overhaul - and that even a minority of NCP supporters back the plan. It remains unclear whether MPs will vote on the plan before their summer recess – and seems unlikely that sote-related provincial elections will go ahead in October as planned.

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