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Tuesday's papers: Finns Party fallout, Kela mess, and Olympic thrift

Speculation over who might replace Timo Soini as Finns Party leader dominated Tuesday's papers, but there was also a revealing interview with a Kela employee and a declaration of thriftiness from the new head of Finland's Olympic committee.

Sampo Terho
Sampo Terho Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

If Timo Soini's plan was to dominate headlines by resigning the Finns Party leadership, he has certainly achieved it. For the second day in a row, most papers led with stories about the leadership contest now underway.

The consensus was that Soini and the party elite had carefully orchestrated the announcement to give Sampo Terho, the chair of the party's parliamentary group, the best chance of victory--and prevent a surprise win by Jussi Halla-aho, the hard-right nationalist with the hate speech conviction.

Ilta-Sanomat had a double page spread outlining the timing and news management, and it certainly looks as though the party apparatus is behind Terho. First Soini published his announcement on his blog, early on Sunday morning. Then within a couple of hours, the party had invited journalists to a Terho press event on Monday.

During that event, party heavyweights Maria Lohela and Jussi Niinistö tweeted their support for Terho. So how will Halla-aho respond? IS reckons he might not run at all, despite previous declarations that he would. He is good friends with Terho, and his burning wish to secure Soini's departure has been granted.

Party MP Tiina Elovaara told IS that Terho also emphasises that he is critical of immigration, reducing the space available to Halla-aho to differentiate himself from the 'establishment' candidate.

Internet celebrity Halla-aho does have one trump card, however--the ability to inspire large numbers of young activists to join the party and travel to the congress in Jyväskylä to vote for him. Halla-aho fan Sebastian Tynkkynen, an ex-Big Brother contestant and former leader of the party's youth wing, told IS that he hoped Halla-aho would stand and sounded slightly bitter about the way the announcements were made.

"It looks like the whole theatre was arranged for Sampo Terho," said Tynkkynen.

Kela pressure tells

From the start of the year basic income support payments switched from being administered by municipalities to the state social insurance institution, Kela. There has been a substantial backlog and social workers complain about an increase in mistakes made when deciding on payments.

Helsingin Sanomat interviewed a Kela case officer to see how things look behind the scenes. It's not a pretty picture. The anonymous employee says that there is extraordinary pressure to handle cases quickly, to reduce the backlog. The worker claims that some people have been fired during their trial period, or not had their contracts renewed, because they worked too carefully and slowly.

Support for the caseworkers is weak, reports HS, with often conflicting advice coming from different Kela sources. Kela has allocated half an hour for each decision, according to the trade union representing Kela employees, during which the caseworker should go through the applicant's entire life, income, assets and problems, and decide on the right level of subsistence support.

The pressure has turned Kela into a difficult workplace, according to Hesari's anonymous source, with caseworkers suffering sleep deprivation, nightmares, and crying at work.

Sporting chance to save money

HS carries an interview with the new chair of the Finnish Olympic Committee, Timo Ritakallio. He serves as CEO of a pension fund managing assets to fund the pensions of some 900,000 people, and on top of that he's also heading up the board of Finland's number one sporting umbrella organisation.

His official goals are to improve Finns' exercise levels and support elite sport, but the biggest issue at the organisation is reputational after a scandal last year involving free-spending officials misusing funds from the Ministry of Sport. The ministry has demanded repayment of some 400,000 euros it says as spent inappropriately, and the negotiations over that repayment are still ongoing.

Ritakallio will not take a salary for his work, and he promises to increase transparency so that 'both good and bad issues can be dealt with openly'. He says there may be difficulties in finding new funds from corporate sponsors, and suggests that the doping scandal at the Lahti Ski Worold Championships in 2001, in which six skiers tested positive for banned substances, had left its mark on businesses worried about funding potentially questionable athletes.

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