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Tuesday's papers: Kids in religious rapture, bargain booze blues, pining for populism, support for Soini

Finnish print publications run with stories about concerns over a religious rally showing children caught up in religious rapture, higher taxes on Estonian booze possibly paving the way for Finland to follow suit, a poll suggesting a growing appetite for green populism and support for outgoing Finns Party chair Timo Soini to retain the Foreign Minister portfolio once he hands over the reins of leadership.

Vahvoja lonkerojuomia Alkon hyllyllä Helsingissä.
Image: Emmi Korhonen / Lehtikuva

Tabloid daily Iltalehti reports on a religious rally, "Rise Finland", which took place at the Metro Arena in Espoo last month. Nothing unusual about that, except that many viewers of the event broadcast live on the Christian TV channel, TV7, were taken aback when American pastor and founder of the King Jesus Ministry Guillermo Maldonado demonstrated the "laying on of hands" practiced in some Christian churches. Thousands of people reportedly cried, trembled and fell to the ground in a religious rapture – including more than 30 youths and children who were paraded onstage during the symbolic segment.

Children’s Ombudsman Tuomas Kurttila said that earlier this year, he expressed concern about the position of children in religious communities. "This case shows very clearly the basis of these concerns. The kind of harm that blatantly violates children’s rights, that have to do with the child’s [right to] privacy and how they are treated in public," he told IL.

Turku University special psychologist and lecturer Annarilla Ahtola said that even a child’s guardians may not necessarily know what is best for their charge. She noted that children are so adaptable that things that may otherwise seem unusual may feel normal to them. "Things that are health risks or even criminal may seem normal, if you are used to seeing them in your own family," she pointed out.

TV7 boss Milja Ojares, said she had already ordered the removal from the website of the live stream segment showing the prayers and laying on of hands. She said that the channel had no advance information about how the live broadcast would be filmed, since the recording was done by the pastor’s personal crew.

"There are certain camera angles that are absolutely prohibited on the TV7 channel. For example we don’t believe in broadcasting any prayer sessions because they are so personal. If we had known about the approach to filming we would have pulled the plug," she declared.

Not-so-cheap booze cruise to Estonia

Still in Helsinki, leading circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat mulls a potential dilemma facing Finnish residents fond of a bargain when it comes to booze. The paper reports that alcohol taxes are set to increase in Estonia, the destination of choice for travellers who opt for low-cost libations as souvenirs. According to HS, the tax on mild alcoholic beverages will rise by a whopping 70 percent come July.

Estonian authorities plan to incrementally increase taxes on mild alcoholic drinks so much that by 2020, the cashier price of beer will surge by half. Estonian tax authorities and the Finnish Taxpayers’ Association estimate that the price of a crate of beer will jump from today’s 12 euros to 18 euros – still cheaper than the asking price of 25 euros in Finland.

But that’s not all, higher alcohol taxes in Estonia could create an opening for Finnish authorities to follow suit. HS reports that Finland has been holding off on jacking up alcohol taxes for fear of further fuelling the cross-border "booze rally". However, the current government’s manifesto indicates that it will hike taxes if similar measures in Tallinn offer the right opportunity.

Think tank: Populism on the left largely ignored

In politics, Turku-based Turun Sanomat reports on a poll conducted by the business-friendly think tank Eva, showing that one-quarter of Finnish residents would vote for an extreme nationalist populist party in an election. Not surprisingly, the poll showed that the majority of respondents who back the nationalist Finns Party would vote for such a political force.

Eva researchers asked respondents about their readiness to vote for one of three hypothetical populist parties. While the extreme nationalist party was the top choice, respondents were also ready to vote for a radical green party – 11 percent of all respondents and nearly half of today’s Greens supporters backed the idea. The hypothetical party’s platform would include radical proposals such as a complete ban on private vehicles and the prohibition of industrial-scale meat production.

The research showed that a leftist populist party won the support of just seven percent of respondents. Eva research chief Ilkka Haavisto said the results indicate that there is a more radical wing within the green political movement and that there is a demand for more extreme and radical policies. He also said that political discourse in Finland has almost entirely ignored the existence of populism on the left of the political spectrum.

Support for Soini to finish term as Foreign Minister

Still in politics, Tampere-based Aamulehti runs the results of another poll showing quite broad support for outgoing Finns Party chair Timo Soini to retain his position as Finnish Foreign Minister. Conducted by the Lännen Media news consortium, the survey showed that 58 percent of some 325 Finns Party supporters want Soini to stay on as Finland’s face on the global scene. Just 25 percent said they would prefer to see him replaced.

Of 136 party backers who support immigration-sceptic hardliner Jussi Halla-aho to take over as Finns Party chair, 46 percent said they would not want Soini to continue as Foreign Minister. However 26 percent supported Soini seeing out the end of his term as minister and a significant 28 percent could not say either way.

The poll found that the vast majority of party members – 78 percent – wanted the Finns Party to remain in the government coalition, with 22 of 24 MPs interviewed saying they wanted to remain a part of Juha Sipilä’s government.

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