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Tuesday's papers: Opposition fights tax rises, quicker United Brotherhood ban, conscription refusals

A conservative MP criticises planned tax hikes, authorities seek an end to a violent gang and more people than ever refuse armed service.

Varusmiehiä marssimassa.
More men than ever before are refusing conscription altogether. Image: Puolustusvoimat

Average earners could be out of pocket after planned tax increases, according to conservative National Coalition Party MP Elina Lepomäki, who said in Tuesday's Taloussanomat that Prime Minister Antti Rinne should keep a promise he made in August to vouchsafe the real earnings of consumers with a mid-range income.

The financial paper quotes the opposition MP as saying that contrary to Social Democrat Rinne's avowal that the government would improve the purchasing power of all Finnish people, current public policy would see the net income of middle class earners fall drastically.

The Taxpayers Association of Finland (TAF) calculates that middle-income workers (who make an average of 3,452 euros per month) would see a tax increase of about 0.4 percent, up to 30.8 percent. The association said this would amount to annual losses of around 160 euros per household.

CEO Teemu Lehtinen from TAF agreed with Lepomäki in the Taloussanomat article, saying that tightening taxes would take Finland "in the wrong direction".

The government is also seeking to downsize the funding of the so-called tax credit for household expenses by 95 million euros. The income compensation for at-home work such as child care, cleaning and renovations will fall from 2,400 euros a year to 2,250 euros per annum.

"Limiting this tax credit will make life harder for households who need lots of public services, such as the elderly and families with children," Lepomäki said in a release. "It will also slow job growth, despite the government programme's plans for the contrary."

Fast track for gang shutdown

Finnish authorities are calling for courts to expedite a temporary prohibition on the activities of the "most dangerous criminal organisation in Finland", the United Brotherhood (UB). It would be the first time Finland has officially banned a criminal outfit.

The District Court of Eastern Uusimaa issued UB and its sub-organisation Bad Union a cease and desist order, to which the gangs have until the end of September to reply. District prosecutor Anna-Riikka Ruuth said in Tuesday's Aamulehti that the legal process could stretch on almost indefinitely; no date has been set for the district court session.

"That's why we have sought for the ban to be placed into effect immediately," she said.

With an official order in place, police could raid and seize UB properties and otherwise directly disrupt their activities even before the gang members see the inside of a court room.

"Police need a court order. Otherwise they would have done more by now," Ruuth said.

National Bureau of Investigation operations chief Ari Lahtela said in AL that the United Brotherhood has also been cosying up to motorcycle gang Hells Angels. The UB could pre-emptively foil a ban by switching their black-and-red vest insignia for the white-and-red Hells Angels colours.

"Police are actively considering how the prohibition case in the works may affect these alliances," he said.

Record year for conscientious objectors

Conscientious objectors to Finland's military conscription who also refuse civilian service may again go to jail for their convictions after a brief amnesty was lifted in April, Helsingin Sanomat wrote.

From February 2018 to April 2019 Finnish conscientious objectors were briefly freed from legal consequences over complaints of special treatment for Jehovah's Witnesses. That group is no longer exempt from service since the law change in April, and almost all Jehovah's Witnesses since then have opted for the civilian option, HS reported.

The waiving of sanctions led to a boom in the number of men who rejected both options in Finland's conscription scheme. That surge has now died down since jail and monitoring sentences were reintroduced in the spring. Even so, 2019 is shaping up to be a record year for the number of total objectors, said civilian service director Mikko Reijonen.

"The first verdicts on total objectors who have come in after the waiver was lifted are likely to be handed down sometime next year," Reijonen said.

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