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Monday's papers: Heated election debate, worries about public services, more summer jobs for the young

The field of candidates in Finland's presidential elections met in front of TV cameras again Sunday evening with national security policy leading to some heated debate.

Miehiä ja naisia jonottavat äänestyspaikoille
Voters in Hämeenlinna line up to cast advance ballots in this week's presidential election. Image: Miki Wallenius / Yle

The Kuopio-based Savon Sanomat reports that the temperature clearly rose during the debate broadcast by the commercial network MTV3, especially when the topic of NATO membership came to the fore.

The issue was introduced by Swedish People's Party candidate Nils Torvalds who accused his fellow candidates and the nation's leadership of "napping" when it comes to potential membership in the western alliance.

The Green Party's Pekka Haavisto expressed concern over Torvalds' position on Nato and what he sees as distain for development of defence cooperation within the European Union. "I don't think that Nato is our enemy. But for us to join NATO - and it's worthwhile being sensible - would increased militarization on the Finnish-Russian border, and we don't want to be a part of this arms race," stated Haavisto.

The incumbent, President Sauli Niinistö, restated his position on the issue, saying that under present conditions he would not seek NATO membership, and if conditions do not change, there is no reason to.

Both the Centre Party's Matti Vanhanen and independent Paavo Väyrynen criticised President Niinistö for what they consider his vagueness on the membership question.

Niinistö, who is leading in the polls, was targeted more by his challengers than in previous debates, even though most of the issues were familiar to voters, says Savon Sanomat. It notes that in addition to NATO, the future of the European Union was a key topic, as was the exercise of power by the president.

Advance voting brisk

Several of the morning's papers, including Turun Sanomat, report that by Sunday evening over one million Finns had already cast their ballots in the presidential election.

On Sunday, more than 110,000 advance votes were registered, bringing turnout so far up to 24.2%. This rate has already exceeded total advance voting in the last presidential election six years ago which topped at 20%.

In the regions of Satakunta and Finnish Lapland, voter turnout passed the 30% mark on Sunday. In Helsinki and the surrounding Uusimaa region, it is over 20%.

Advance voting in the election continues today and tomorrow, Tuesday. Election day is this coming Sunday, the 28th.

Public service worries

A new poll published this morning by the rural-focused Maaseudun Tulevaisuus (MT) finds that around half of the country's residents are concerned about the impact of competition on services.

The MT survey found that many people are worried about future access to postal services, taxis, rail transport and, most of all, healthcare services. These are all sectors that the government and Parliament have decided to open to further competition.

Nearly half of the 1,072 people who responded said that they fear that competition will degrade services. A similar number, however, believe there will be improvements in services, other than in healthcare. Around 60% of residents in mainly rural districts believe postal services will suffer. In urban areas, around 40% think competition will improve postal services, while a similar number expect worse service.

The poll found that the biggest concern is focused on healthcare. A new social and healthcare reform will introduce more competition among healthcare providers. The number of people who believe that this will have a negative impact on healthcare is double the number of those who think it will bring improvements.

Plenty of summer jobs

Looking ahead to the summer, the freesheet Metro reports today that the prospects for young people to find jobs this coming summer are better than they have been in years.

State employment offices say that there are significantly more summer jobs on offer right now than there were at this same time last year, with a strong upswing being seen in positions in the travel and hospitality sectors.

In the greater Helsinki region, the largest number of summer jobs available is in construction, followed by jobs in retail sales. One large retailer, the S-Group, says that it intends to take on 13,000 summer employees nationwide.

Cover those ankles

The Oulu-based Kaleva warns readers that wearing sneakers and other low-top shoes out in the cold can lead to health problems.

Tiina Nylander, a physician and specialist in exercise physiology, points out that cold temperatures impede blood circulation and stiffen tendons. And, she notes that year-round use of low-top shoes has led to an increase in the number of Achilles tendon problems.

Sneakers and socks, she says, are fine for winter in a Mediterranean climate, but not here.

The usual symptoms of an Achilles tendon infection, which can in part be brought on by the cold, include pain, stiffness and swelling of the ankles.

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