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Parliament begins busy term, new Speaker promises discipline

The new Speaker of the Finnish Parliament pledges to bring an end to excesses such as those that followed a Christmas party last year.

The opening ceremony will be held in the freshly-renovated Parliament House. Image: Martti Kainulainen / Lehtikuva

Parliament formally opens the final year of its legislative term on Tuesday afternoon under the gavel of new Speaker Paula Risikko, a former Interior Minister from the conservative National Coalition Party.

The next Parliamentary elections are set for April 2019. Before then, the legislature is to consider some 130 government bills.

Besides those, MPs are to debate at least six pending citizens' initiatives, including one calling for a repeal of the controversial 'active model' that places more requirements on jobseekers receiving unemployment benefits.

Risikko says that there will be three more citizens' initiatives. These are in effect bills presented by the public, requiring a minimum of 50,000 signatures.

First Deputy Speaker Mauri Pekkarinen from the prime minister's Centre Party told Yle he hopes that there will be bolder, more lively political debate in the chamber.

Generous pensions to be reconsidered

Risikko said that she considers the current generous system of adjustment pensions for MPs to be outdated, but declined to speculate on what would replace it. Nearly 150 current and former MPs – some of them still in their 30s – receive annual pensions under the scheme, and will continue to do so until age 65. They include Risikko herself and about half of the current government ministers.

Risikko also promised that there would be no more news from Parliament House about excessive drinking and sexual harassment such as those that followed a Christmas party there in December.

President Sauli Niinistö, MPs, ministers and other dignitaries are attending an ecumenical church service at Helsinki's Lutheran Cathedral at noon before the ceremonial opening of Parliament begins around 1:45 pm. Niinistö has had a busy few days, being sworn in for a second term last Thursday and becoming father to a baby boy on Friday.

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