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Justice Minister: Regional election timetable on a knife edge

Parliament's delay hammering out social and health care reform laws could mean a postponement of related regional elections in Finland, says Justice Minister.

Antti Häkkinen
Antti Häkkänen Image: Yle

Justice Minister Antti Häkkänen said on Thursday that parliament’s slow pace dealing with the social and health care reform laws could mean that proposed regional elections - which are planned to be held in the autumn - are at risk of being postponed.

Government's so-called sote model requires the establishment of 18 regional authorities, which will be responsible for delivering social and health care services. Finnish residents will have to go to the polls in October to elect representatives to these new regional bodies.

National Coalition Party MP Häkkänen failed to give a direct answer when asked about the schedule of the regional elections, but said that the current timetable is very tight. ”It seems that sticking to the timetable is now on a knife edge,” Häkkänen said on Yle's A-Talk discussion programme on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Centre Party’s Anu Vehviläinen, who serves as Minister of Local Government and Public Reform, said that there is no reason to consider postponing the elections until after the legislative package has been passed.

Constitutional Law Committee leaks

The regional elections are scheduled to take place at the end of October but the pressure to push them back has increased recently.

For example, Finland’s Chancellor of Justice has stated that there should be a preparatory period of six months between reforming existing legislation and the elections. Based on the current timetable, this period would be cut to four months – assuming that the legislation goes into effect at the start of July.

The chair of the Swedish People’s Party, Anna-Maja Henriksson, said the regional elections should be postponed to coincide with the general election in April next year.

Antti Rinne, who chairs the Social Democratic Party, said he was appalled to hear that documents relating to the ambitious reform programme were leaked to the press from the Constitutional Law Committee. He said the committee was politicised and "leaked like a sieve."

Henriksson – a member of the committee – said such leaks hurt the credibility of the committee, which is scheduled to announce next week whether or not the government’s reform proposal complies with the constitution.

The statement is considered a key element in advancing the massive health and social care reform.

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