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Thursday's papers: New gov't takes office, women outnumber men in cabinet, benefits bust

Stories in the press focus on the official transition to Antti Rinne's new government.

Kuvassa Pekka Haavisto, Li Anderron, Anna-Maja Henriksson, Antti Rinne ja Juha Sipilä.
The chairs of Finland's next government parties on 3 June. Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

Lahti-based daily Etelä-Suomen Sanomat reports on today's government handover, as the five-party coalition led by Social Democrat chair Antti Rinne takes over the reins from the outgoing three-party cabinet of the Centre Party's Juha Sipilä.

According to protocol, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö will meet the Speaker of Parliament and Rinne at 10am in his official residence of Mäntyniemi and, having heard the Speaker, will notify the Parliament of the nominee for Prime Minister.

The Parliament then elects a Prime Minister at its plenary session starting at noon, and at 2pm, the President formally appoints the PM and the government ministers the new premier proposes. The previous government will officially resign at this time.

A subsequent constitutive session will see the ministers take an oath of office, divvy up responsibilities, and formally submit their Government Programme to Parliament. This session will be followed by the new government paying a complimentary visit to the Presidential Palace, on the heels of a similar 'farewell' visit from the outgoing administration.

The paper writes that Parliament will select a new Speaker on Friday and begin discussion of the incoming government's programme next Tuesday.

11 women ministers, 8 men

Capital city area daily Helsingin Sanomat features a story on the gender balance of the new government, as women account for 11 of the incoming cabinet's ministers, while eight are men.

HS says this is still not the most female-heavy government in Finnish history, as the second 2007-2010 coalition fronted by Centre Party PM Matti Vanhanen still holds the record for the largest percentage of women, with 12 female ministers out of 20.

In contrast, five of Juha Sipilä's outgoing 16 ministers were women, and of the 23 various ministers that shuffled through his administration over the past four years, only nine were female.

Fortifying the welfare state

HS's political analyst Marko Junkkari writes in a column today that the incoming PM Antti Rinne repeatedly mentioned the welfare state in his government's programme, saying several times that his new left-leaning coalition will work to "strengthen" it.

Junkkari points out the contrast to outgoing PM Juha Sipilä's coalition, which made no mention of Finland's hyvinvointivaltio in its government programme – the first coalition to not do so since the 1950s.

The paper's analyst says the Finnish public is traditionally very supportive of the welfare state, with polls consistently indicating that residents are willing to pay considerable taxes to keep the social system in motion. "I dare say it's doubtful there will be any downsizing over the next four years," he says.

Payback time

And the tabloid Iltalehti wraps up this Thursday's paper review with news of an audit at the state benefits administrator Kela which found more than 800 individuals had received unemployment benefits under false pretences.

Kela said in a statement that it regularly checks the income of people receiving the different kinds of unemployment benefits that are available in Finland, and their latest appraisal examined income from earnings and other sources during 2016. The agency's website says that the relevant data from 1,167 unemployment benefit recipients were analysed, and the income from 812 indicated that their benefits had been granted based on faulty information.

Most of the cases involved salaries or wages that the beneficiary had not reported to Kela, although there were also a few cases of unreported earnings from business activities and copyright payments.

The agency says it will be asking recipients to pay back the excess – an average of close to 7,000 euros for the year per person, accounting for a total of nearly five million euros. In 2016, Kela distributed over two billion euros in unemployment benefits to approximately 388,000 people.

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