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Tuesday's papers: Far right retail magnate shunned, angry Wahlroos and Finns Party skullduggery

Tuesday's newspapers include stories on corporate reaction to revelations about a provincial retail chain owner's far right sympathies, a new outburst by tax exile Björn Wahlroos, and some new details about Jussi Halla-aho's move to shove aside Timo Soini in a grab for leadership of the Finns Party.

Kuvassa Kärkkäinen oy:n liiketunnus tavaratalon katon harjalla.
Kärkkäinen stores are scattered across Finland, but the closest to Helsinki is 100km away. Image: YLE / Anssi Leppänen

On Sunday Helsingin Sanomat published a lengthy profile of Juha Kärkkäinen, a retail magnate from Ylivieska in Ostrobothnia with strong links to far-right groups, a penchant for publishing anti-semitic texts in freesheet newspapers and a conviction for agitation against an ethnic group. The article detailed how Kärkkäinen became radicalised during a trip to the United States in 2007, and outlined his efforts to keep publishing racist and anti-semitic material while trying not to damage his business.

In order to do that, Kärkkäinen handed some of his media operations to an association linked to the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement, which is the target of legal proceedings aimed at proscribing the violent far-right group this month.

The story also noted that many firms, including HS owner Sanoma, are happy to take Kärkkäinen's money and provide him with stock. The Kärkkäinen outlets, which sell cheap household goods in a no-frills department store setting, stock most big brands. The only company that has ceased co-operation with the budget barn outlet is textile company Finlayson, which did so back in 2015.

That led to social media pressure and eventually responses from Finnish firms worried about their reputations. Confectionary firm Fazer republished a letter they sent to Kärkkäinen demanding explanations and threatening to suspend co-operation if there were any more outbreaks of neo-nazism from the company or its leadership. Fazer said it was evaluating its links with Kärkkäinen.

The Muumin franchise said it operates via franchising agreements and is powerless to stop Kärkkäinen profiting from Tove Jansson's hippo-like family of characters. Other firms said they were evaluating their links with the retailer, but no single firm announced they were suspending cooperation.

Nalle wants a leader

Tax exile banker Björn Wahlroos officially left Finland in 2013, switching his official residence to Sweden to minimise his liabilities, but the outspoken Ayn Rand fan is still keen to publish his views on Finnish society, culture and politics. On Monday he published a new pamphlet and drew broad coverage across Finnish media outlets.

This time 'Nalle' wants Finland to know he thinks the country needs a stronger leader. The powers of the president, which have been trimmed since Urho Kekkonen was in office for 26 years, only leaving after his health began to fail because he did not believe a successor could manage the country well enough.

Finland is now much more parliamentarian in its decision-making, and that--according to Wahlroos--is not necessarily a good thing. A particular bugbear is the constitution, which in Wahlroos's opinion hamstrings decision-making in Finland.

"I don't want a führer or a new Kekkonen, but I don't want this chaos either," said the banker.

Ilta-Sanomat asked five of the challengers to Sauli Niinistö for the president's job what they thought, and all but hard-right creationist Laura Huhtasaari said that they were satisfied with current powers.

Halla-aho's long-term plan

Tuesday sees the publication of Aamulehti journalist Lauri Nurmi's book about the split in the Finns Party precipitated by Jussi Halla-aho's election as leader in place of Timo Soini. The Tampere daily on Tuesday publishes some of the juicy bits from the narrative.

Nurmi broke several stories in the summer that were big scoops at the time but effectively predicted the course of events. He says on Tuesday that the government was well-prepared for this eventuality, and that the split was not a surprise to insiders.

Halla-aho's moves were planned way back in 2016, according to Nurmi, when a secret meeting brought a promise from the MEP that he would challenge Soini. What followed was a mobilisiation of Halla-aho's support base online and off, leading to the departure of Soini and an unprecedented split in a government party.

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