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Tuesday's papers: Parliament Christmas party mess, Niinistö poll lead and intelligence law latest

The newspapers on Tuesday include stories on a messy evening at parliament, a huge lead for Sauli Niinistö and the possible implications of a proposed new intelligence law.

Teuvo Hakkarainen
Teuvo Hakkarainen Image: Emmi Korhonen / Lehtikuva

Last week Finland's parliamentarians held Christmas parties on the same night MPs debated relaxing laws on alcohol sales. Since then stories have dribbled out about misbehaviour on Thursday night, but on Monday a flood of new details appeared in several media outlets.

On Friday Teuvo Hakkarainen, vice-chair of the Finns Party and a Central Finland MP, announced he had apologised to an unspecified colleague for his unspecified actions. On Monday it emerged that he had actually 'forcefully kissed' Veera Ruoho, a National Coalition MP, who was taking a break from the debate in parliament's cafe.

She had felt the need to clarify that she had not been at any party when the incident happened, after this was left unclear in Hakkarainen's statement. Ilta-Sanomat reports that the head of security at parliament advised Ruoho to make a police complaint, and said that regardless of any complaint the authorities had to react to the incident.

Ruoho told IS that she had asked Hakkarainen if he remembered the incident. He had apparently replied that no, he didn't, and that it wouldn't happen again "until the next time he was drunk".

Christmas parties in the balance

On Monday he posted on Facebook that he was seeking help to quit drinking, and apologised once again.

NCP MP Kari Tolvanen, who had been with Ruoho at the time of the incident, told IS that he had notified the Speaker, Maria Lohela, on Friday morning, as Hakkarainen's behaviour was "so egregious and unbelievable, in the same week we'd debated the #metoo campaign in parliament as well".

Speaker Lohela herself posted on Facebook that the tradition of holding Christmas parties at parliament may have to be re-examined if people misbehave.

Aamulehti had another story about Thursday night, reporting that Christian Democrat MP and trained doctor Päivi Räsänen, who was in the chamber during the parties, had to be called out of the debate to attend to a parliamentary aide who had over-indulged and looked to be suffering from alcohol poisoning.

The former Christian Democrat leader was with the aide until an ambulance arrived to convey him to hospital. On Friday Räsänen voted against raising the level of alcohol permitted in drinks sold at supermarkets from 4.7 percent to 5.5 percent, but she also suggested on Thursday that the whole debate be delayed until "everyone who works at parliament is sober".

Niinistö still out in front

Helsingin Sanomat runs another poll showing a big lead for Sauli Niinistö ahead of Finland's 2018 Presidential election. The paper has him at 70 percent support, more than enough to win another six-year term without the need for s second round run-off, and two points up on the last HS poll.

Veteran eurosceptic Paavo Väyrynen is included in this HS poll for the first time after gathering enough nominations to join the race, and he leapfrogs half the field into fourth spot, but still only polls three percent. That's the scale of the challenge facing those looking to topple Niinistö.

Intelligence law moves

Helsingin Sanomat follows up on Saturday's controversial story in which it used highly classified documents to report on the key site used by Finnish military intelligence. This time the paper looks at a proposed new intelligence law which would make it much easier for Finnish spies to gather data that passes through Finland.

This, notes HS, offers a legal framework for the gathering of Russian data--much of which heads to Europe through cables on Finnish territory. The paper speculates on how the law might affect Finnish intelligence co-operation with the United States, with the possibility that Finnish-gathered data on Russia or on US citizens in Finland might be interesting for US intelligence agencies.

The paper says that may give them leverage to obtain data on Finnish citizens gathered by the US--but which they're not allowed to collect themselves.

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