The President’s comments were carried prominently in the regional dailies Keskisuomalainen, Savon Sanomat, Etelä-Suomen Sanomat, and Karjalainen.
Niinistö charged that the government had created the illusion that action had been taken to implement difficult economic decisions when in fact, nothing had been done.
He spoke of a seven-year mistake, referring to the economic policies pursued in the seven years since 2007, when the Centre Party’s Matti Vanhanen headed up the government. Vanhanen later stepped down in June 2010, amid a swirl of scandal and citing medical problems. Mari Kiviniemi then took the reins of power until June 2011, when the National Coalition Party’s Jyrki Katainen became Prime Minister.
“This seven-year mistake also spawned a new kind of image-based politics. It has been characterised by a government that on three or four occasions said that it was doing things that remained undone,” Niinistö said in the interview.
He said that the current government led by the NCP’s Alexander Stubb has also gotten off on the wrong footing.
“In reality things were in really bad shape, but the image was projected that everything had already been taken care of and that the new government would only have to put a little bit of effort to ensure implementation,” Niinistö claimed.
Media coddling government
The media didn’t escape Niinistö’s ire either, as he accused them of being soft on the government by failing to critically assess its performance and adequately scrutinise the progress of its major projects.
“I’ll also point my finger at the media for its lack of vigilance. They’ve been let off the hook every time. Even after last spring’s budget framework talks it was reported that everything is almost done,” the President remarked.
Savon Sanomat quoted Niinistö as saying that many key reforms undertaken by Jyrki Katainen’s government had ended in failure. He also observed that possible implementation of the administration’s major social and health care reform programme would likely fall on the shoulders of the next government.
The President concluded that “we can’t afford another fruitless four years.”
Niinistö served as Finance Minister from 1996 to 2003. He was known for his strict fiscal policies and played a central role in hauling Finland out of a punishing economic recession in the 1990s. He also led the country into the single currency eurozone in 2002.