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Thursday's papers: Professors vs minister, polling analysis and a Bolivian ski star

The newspapers on Thursday include stories on a fierce row between a minister and legal experts, a new political poll and a Finn skiing for Bolivia.

Jussi Niinistö Ykkösaamussa lauantaina 19. tammikuuta.
Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö Image: Yle


Finnish media has in recent days been aflame with escalating rhetoric about the finer points of constitutional law, thanks to Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö of the Blue Reform Party.

Helsingin Sanomat reports on the spat which started on Tuesday when Niinistö described professor Martin Scheinin’s background in the Communist Party, which the Defence Minister apparently regards as disqualifying.

“Tweets from admirers of the totalitarian Soviet system cannot in future have significance in Finland’s representative democracy,” wrote Niinistö.

The issue at hand is ostensibly the decision by parliament to return a much-trailed intelligence law to the committee stage after criticism by constitutional law experts. Scheinin and his fellow professor Juha Lavapuro had previously tweeted criticism of the way lawmakers had ignored criticism from parliament’s constitutional law committee.

In his blog post Niinistö slammed ‘extra-parliamentary forces’ who want to get their way.

“Constitutional law Talibs hide their own ideological goals behind a fake cloak of expertise and apply pressure via social media to the democratically elected parliament,” said Niinistö, whose party is currently polling within the margin of error two months from parliamentary elections due on 14 April.

On Wednesday Prime Minister Juha Sipilä said that the tone of the discussion about the intelligence law was ‘approaching the limits’, signalling he may prefer a more constructive approach to parliament’s experts.

“The government’s job isn’t to direct parliament or the experts called by parliament,” Sipilä told journalists.

Polling pressure

HS publishes a poll by TNS Kantar today which suggests the Finns Party's support is on the rise. The party fractured in 2017 when hardliner Jussi Halla-aho took over as leader, leading to a dip in support, but the HS poll suggests their support stands at 11.4 percentage points.

The bigger parties' numbers are down, especially Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's Centre Party, so HS goes to his home town of Oulu to see a party meeting to try and find out why. The answer is unambiguous: people like their anti-immigration line, especially in the wake of a spate of alleged sex crimes in which asylum seekers are the suspects.

Sipilä, remember, famously offered his own home to accommodate refugees in 2015 and the Finns Party faithful believe that has played a role in their current boost in support.

The group that splintered from the Finns Party, Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö's Blue Reform Party, registered one percentage point in the same poll.

Bolivian ski star

Iltalehti has a story on Bolivia's distinctly Finnish-sounding cross-country skiing star Timo Grönlund, who is competing in the World Championships in Seefeld, Austria this week. Grönlund grew up in Kitee, eastern Finland, before moving to La Paz in 2014 with his Bolivian wife.

He started gathering points under the Federation International du Ski (FIS) qualification system and, once he passed the threshold to compete in the world championships, the Bolivian ski federation ("yes, there is one!" says Timo) paid for his trip to Austria.

It wasn't the most direct route, and it took 36 hours, but it did get him there and he came 29th in the heats, more than four minutes behind the leaders. That's not too bad, considering how irregularly he gets to ski: he managed a couple of runs in Chile in December, but not much else recently.

La Paz-based Grönlund does have one trump card, however, in his location. At 3,860 metres above sea level the Bolivian capital is twice as high as many of the camps used for 'altitude training' by endurance skiers.

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