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Monday's papers: Estonian elections, war games, thin ice

Election results from Estonia, major defense exercises, and warnings of thin ice are among the items in Monday's newspapers.

Sotilas seisoo ulkona.
A Finnish soldier standing guard during urban warfare exercises in 2017. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Most dailies on Monday looked across the Gulf of Finland at the results of voting in Estonia's parliamentary elections where the opposition Reform party registered a win, but the biggest gains were made by the far-right Ekre party.

Turku's Turun Sanomat writes that Ekre, which polled 17.8% of the vote, has gathered growing support by using a formula common to populist parties throughout Europe - stirring up fears over immigration. This seems to have worked on many Estonian voters, even though Estonia is not faced by major immigration.

The paper quotes the director of Estonia's foreign policy institute Kristi Raik as saying that Ekre is unlikely to join a government coalition, however. Raik points to the generous campaign promises made by the party as evidence that it is not serious about taking government responsibility.

Turun Sanomat also notes that although voters cast ballots at polling stations on Sunday, many had voted electronically in advance. Estonia is the only country in the world where online voting in national elections is possible. Around 40 percent of voters there took advantage of voting "from their sofas", as Turun Sanomat put it.

Soldiers on the streets

The Finnish Army is conducting local defence training exercises that will bring soldiers into parts of urban areas starting on Monday.

Aamulehti reports from Tampere that the exercises, which kicked off in Kemi, Oulu, and southwestern Finland last week include some 3,400 soldiers and 500 military vehicles, tanks and armoured personnel carriers, as well as police and emergency services units.

As of Monday, the exercises are expanding into Tampere, Kouvola and the Helsinki region. Focusing on surveillance and protection tasks and missions, military activities is likely to be seen especially in the vicinity of airports, harbours and rail facilities.

Helsingin Sanomat tells its readers to not be upset if soldiers in full battle gear carrying automatic weapons appear in their neighbourhoods this week.

The paper reports that army units are expected to be seen around the capital region in Pasila and Tikkurila. The other areas on the paper's list are Pitäjänmäki, Koskela, Etelä-Haaga, Myllypuro and Isosaari, as well as Jokiniemi and Koivukylä in Vantaa.

SMBs down but recruiting

The economic and business daily Kauppalehti reports on a slowdown in production by small and mid-sized businesses in Finland over the past year.

According to a survey commissioned by the paper, many of these companies are also less optimistic about the future, but even so most are holding on to staff.

Kauppalehti's survey shows that a good third of SMBs in the country are doing well and showing growth. On the other hand, over half reported that output has either remained static or dropped over the past 12 months. Small and mid-sized industries and retailers registered the largest falls in business. The service sector continues to show the best performance.

The results of the survey bode well for employment. One out of four SMBs plan to recruit more employees. A mere 3 percent said they intend to downsize their payrolls. The highest demand for workers looks to be in the building sector.

Capital "chaos"

Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet warns of the possibility of "traffic chaos" in the capital as road works shut one of Helsinki’s main thoroughfares, Hämeentie.

The section under renovation is being closed to private vehicles, but will remain open to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.

However, trams in the area will be rerouted.

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat notes that common sense dictates that the works will cause significant disruption and strained nerves. The paper reports that the Helsinki Region Transport authority has put extra resources into communication services because of the expected confusion. In addition to its regular reports on traffic changes, the authority has set up a Facebook page devoted specifically to updates on the Hämeentie project.

Thin ice and more snow

Jyväaskylä's Keskisuomalainen carries a cautionary tale today of two cyclists being rescued after the ice gave way on a local lake they were crossing on Sunday.

Local emergency authorities issued a reminder that ice cover is thin in many areas. For example at the site of Sunday's incident the ice, hidden under a heavy covering of snow, was only around one centimetre thick. Ice cover is especially thin where there are underwater currents.

Thin ice does not, however, mean the immediate arrival of spring. Iltalehti is among the papers reporting that winter weather is continuing, and southern coastal areas can expect heavy snowfall Monday night and Tuesday morning.

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