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Thursday's papers: Turku attack anniversary march, SDP popularity spike, shopping on Sundays

Follow-up on Finns Party members marching with neo-Nazis, Social Democrats gain ground and Sundays become more popular among Finnish shoppers.

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Dailies have follow-ups, poll figures and consumer news to impart this Thursday. Image: Yle

On 18 August hundreds of people gathered in Turku for a commemorative march through the city to pay respects to the victims of the terrorist knife attack that took place there last year. Daily Helsingin Sanomat features a follow-up piece focusing on the involvement of several nationalist blocs as well as Finns Party politicians.

The Finns Party, says researcher Tommi Kotonen in HS, made no effort to denounce the involvement of several of its local members. Party representative Mauri Peltokangas from Kaustinen even spoke at the demo organised by the so-called "Nationalist Alliance" (Kansallismielisten liittouma), formed in 2017 to help coordinate far-right protests.

"This coalition has not spoken much about their ideology, but their operations are clearly far-right in nature," Kotonen says in the paper. "Their demonstration was still framed as non-political and patriotic."

Not only did the Finns Party not condemn several members for marching with the likes of anti-immigrant group Soldiers of Odin and the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement, but party VP Laura Huhtasaari actually spoke out against the anti-fascist "No Nazis in Turku" (Ei natseja Turkuun) event that took place on the same day.

"If I had been in Turku I would have protested terrorists, not Nazis," Huhtasaari blatantly says in a video she posted on her Facebook page.

Researcher Kotonen from the University of Jyväskylä says that the organisers of the right-wing march – dubbed 188 Kukkavirta, or "stream of flowers" – used purposefully misleading rhetoric to attract more people to their cause. The "Nationalist Alliance" is overtly anti-Islam and anti-immigration, says Kotonen, but they keep emphasising their patriotism and anti-terrorist sentiment.

"It seems that the Finns Party's threshold for intervening in its members' unsavory actions is higher than ever," he says in HS.

SDP at top, PM race begins

Closer to the political mainstream, a new Alma Media poll for August once again shows the Social Democratic Party rising in popularity. Regional paper Aamulehti writes that the SDP is now the most popular party in Finland.

The poll shows that 21.9 percent of respondents would be ready to vote for the Social Democrats in next spring's Parliamentary elections, leaving behind previous top party the National Coalition Party, who garnered 19.8 percent support. Figures are subject to a 2.5 percentage points margin of error, AL says, out of a sample group of 1,500 people.

With numbers trend upwards for the SDP and with PM Juha Sipilä's Centre Party dipping down to 15 percent, it is no wonder that talk of the race for Prime Minister has already begun. SDP chair Antti Rinne is pegged as a favourite, with the NCP's Petteri Orpo considered by respondents to be a close-ish second.

Antti Rinne
SDP chair and PM hopeful Antti Rinne. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

The AL piece speculates that controversy and hiccoughs surrounding in the social service and health care reform plan ("sote") and internal springtime schisms in both the NCP and Centre Party have helped boost the Democrats into first place.

Communications firm Ellun Kanat research chief Jukka Manninen – previously an NCP worker – says that despite the three top parties now hogging the limelight, it was in fact the Green League who was the runaway champion in terms of popular support in the official Helsingin Sanomat 2018 spring party barometer. At that time 38 percent of respondents gave the Greens' policies a favourable or very favourable rating, more than any other political party.

"It is a mystery why the Greens haven't been able to generate more support," Manninen wonders in AL.

Finns warming to Sunday shopping

In early 2016 Finland changed its laws to allow retail stores to serve customers freely on Sundays, dismantling earlier restrictions. Now tabloid Ilta-Sanomat writes that shoppers have begun to get used to the idea, as Sunday sales figures are climbing to match those during the working week.

Planning manager Ville Verronen from retailing cooperative S-Group says that especially families tend to shop for the coming week in force on the last day of the week.

"Grocery shopping is tending towards the late evening. Our shop opening hours will eventually be stretched to 10 pm on weekends as well."

K-Market entrepreneur Atte Paronen from rival conglomerate Kesko echoes the sentiment that Finnish consumers are getting wise to the updated possibilities.

"Sunday is a normal shopping day now, and people are on board with that," he says in IS.

Edit: Clarified information on spring barometer support figures.

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