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Monday’s papers: Govt faces heat over sloppy lawmaking, poll finds "oppressive" climate and Helsinki’s most costly bus route

Monday’s papers continue wall-to-wall coverage of Chancellor of Justice Jaakko Jonkka’s criticism of the Sipilä government’s apparent slap-dash approach to drafting legislation. Otherwise, dailies ponder a fresh poll showing that a majority of Finnish residents feel the current national mood is oppressive, and also look at Helsinki’s most expensive -- and cheapest -- bus lines.

Oikeuskansleri Jaakko Jonkka.
Chancellor of Justice Jaakko Jonkka landed the government in hot water after criticising its record of poorly drafted legislation. Jonkka is now on sick leave. Image: Yle

Monday’s print papers take up the story first reported Sunday by largest circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat, in which Chancellor of Justice Jaakko Jonkka slammed Juha Sipilä’s government for attempting to hastily push through a host of new laws, many of which were poorly drafted and some of which failed to pass the constitutional test. Jonkka told HS that the government had summarily dismissed his views on flawed legislation.

Legal experts and opposition parties wasted no time in condemning the government’s approach to drafting bills, with political science Professor Göran Djupsund of Turku’s Åbo Akademi suggesting that it was time for the government to step aside.

Responding to the latest controversy swirling around his government, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä wrote in his blog Sunday that Jonkka’s assertions were serious but that his administration was aware of the problems and had already intervened and reacted to the issue. He said that he would further discuss the matter with the Chancellor upon his return from sick leave.

Chancellor: One person can't torpedo Parliament

Tabloid daily Ilta-Sanomat explains that draft legislation is prepared by ministry officials, following which bills are reviewed by the cabinet before going to lawmakers to be discussed. Jonkka told IS that the role of the Chancellor of Justice is to review legislation in advance to determine its constitutionality.

Jonkka admitted however, that he did not write any dissenting opinions about sub-par legislation.

"If in a case that is open to interpretation the government decides to take a bill to Parliament, we cannot stop it. Nor is it appropriate in the legal system for one person to be able to torpedo the right of the Parliament and its Constitutional Committee to process the bill in the manner that these organs should," he said.

Papers list examples of unconstitutional bills

Another tabloid, Iltalehti, lists three pieces of legislation in which the government overlooked constitutional considerations and was later forced to withdraw them because of the oversight. The first involved a bill to pay persons granted asylum 90 percent of the daily unemployment allowance as integration support. Experts found that the proposal would have put asylum seekers granted residence permits on an unequal footing compared to others.

The second time the government ran afoul of the constitution was when it tried to introduce new legislation to double day fines for traffic violations and increase the maximum spot fine, claiming it needed the expected 56 million in additional income to patch up government coffers. That bill was also binned because constitutional experts ruled that the government’s money crunch could not be the reason for deciding on punitive sanctions.

The government was also forced to pull back so-called "active repentance" legislation that would allow persons who’d failed to pay taxes on undeclared income to avoid sanctions if they made a clean breast of their secret earnings – usually stashed abroad. The Constitutional Law Committee said government could not give special treatment to any group of people, especially a group involved in wrongdoing.

Poll finds "oppressive" atmosphere in Finland

Leaving politics behind, Iltalehti reports that a new poll by Finnish media group Alma Media finds that 80 percent of people in Finland find the current atmosphere to be oppressive. The media organisation asked respondents how they felt about the current mood in the country. Some 52 percent said they found the overall climate to be slightly oppressive, while 22 percent said it was somewhat so and six percent said it was very oppressive. Just 17 percent said they did not find the current mood to be in any way oppressive.

Helsinki University European history docent Oula Silvennoinen told Iltalehti that he had observed a hardening of the discussion around immigration in Finland and noted that society had become polarised.

"We are gathering in tribes and beginning to see others as enemies and traitors. People who disagree are no longer people with different opinions, but traitors who directly threaten me and are destroying Finland."

Helsinki's most costly - and cheapest - bus services

Helsingin Sanomat’s city pages take readers on a scenic bus ride through the region’s northeastern extremes, where bus number 91 serves mainly school-bound children in sparsely-populated areas. According to HS it costs the city 14 euros a head to provide the service, making it one of the most expensive in the region, especially compared to the average cost per ride of 1.60 euros. The figure includes the driver’s pay, the cost of running the bus, service and fuel.

At the other end of the spectrum, bus number 82 running from Herttoniemi to Itäkeskus has the lightest touch on taxpayers, with each ride costing just 60 cents. Number 82 is a metro feeder service and public transport service designer Miska Peura said that the majority of the cheapest and highest demand lines in the city are metro feeder buses operating in densely-populated areas.

Helsinki Regional Transport HSL notes however, that service buses are the most expensive of all, featuring costs that run upwards of 100 euros per ride. They are mainly supplementary services that run on routes not covered by regular buses and serve the elderly as well as people with mobility or other disabilities.

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