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Tuesday's papers: Post-election govt, former ISIS fighters, mystery quake

Creating a post-election government in Finland may be exceptionally difficult, writes one of the papers in Tuesday's look at the Finnish press.

Eduskuntatalon istuntosali.
Image: Martti Kainulainen / Lehtikuva

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat predicts Finland will see exceptionally difficult government formation talks following April's parliamentary elections.

The paper bases its prediction on the latest Helsingin Sanomat Gallup poll showing the Social Democrats with 20.8% of voter support, the conservative National Coalition with 18.6%, the Centre with 14.7%, closely followed by the Greens and the Finns Party.

Ilta-Sanomat points out that government formation talks are easy when one party is "a head taller" than its rivals and can claim a mandate from voters. This time, though, it is possible that no party will gain the upper hand.

It describes the months of stalemate that were seen in neighbouring Sweden after last autumn's elections as a possible foretaste of what will happen in Finland. There it was the rightwing Sweden Democrats who created a bottleneck. In Finland, that same role might be played by the Finns Party, led by Jussi Halla-Aho. The leaders of the largest parties have already said they will not enter into a coalition government with the Finns Party.

However, in this opinion piece, Ilta-Sanomat states that denials of willinginess to cooperate with the Finns Party should not be believed. If the Finns Party polls at least 15 percent of the vote, which is entirely possible, the road into a coalition will open up.

The paper's forecast, on the basis of the latest voter surveys, is that the Social Democratic chair Antti Rinne will lead talks on putting together a new cabinet. In an interview with Ilta-Sanomat he said that one issue will take precedence - major funding for care of the sick and elderly.

"No comment" on ISIS fighters

Turku's Turun Sanomat reports that the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) has declined to comment on whether or not there are Finnish nationals among the former ISIS fighters being held prisoner in Syria.

According to Supo, more than 80 Finnish citizens travelled to fight in conflict zones in Syria and Iraq mainly during the period 2012-2016. It is believed that approximately 20 were killed and around 20 have previously returned to Finland.

Officials say that actual figure of those who traveled to take part in the conflict could be higher. Supo says that around 20 of those known to have gone to Syria or Iraq were adult women, and an estimated 30 children, some of whom have now reached adulthood. There are also children with ties to Finland who were born in ISIS-controlled areas.

A spokesperson for the Security Intelligence Service declined to confirm or deny that Finnish nationals are among ISIS prisoners in Syria, saying that the information concerns Supo's "operational activities".

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä recently told Yle that Finland has no interest in taking back ISIS combatants. However, by law, citizens have freedom of movement and cannot be prevented from entering the country, cannot be expelled, and cannot be returned to another country against their will.

Parliament is, however, looking at a proposal to enable stripping a dual national of Finnish citizenship for certain serious offenses.

Split over immigrant labour

The Jyväskylä daily Keskisuomalainen is one of the papers carrying a poll by the Federation of Finnish Enterprises that shows an even split among the public on the question of making it easier for companies to hire foreign employees.

With a few exceptions, it is standard hiring practice in Finland to prioritise hiring job applicants who are citizens of an EU member state or a country that is a part of the European Economic Area.

Local employment offices can, however, ease restrictions on the basis of labour availability, in effect dropping the priority requirement approving work permits for non-EU and -EEA migrants in fields where there is a shortage of potential employees from EU and EEA countries.

Of the more than 1000 Finns surveyed, 39 percent said that it should be made easier to hire foreigners while 38 percent took the position that it should not. The remaining 23 percent were undecided.

At 44 percent, women were more willing to see it made easier to bring immigrants into the workforce. A significant level of support was seen among older people, with more than half of over 60 year-olds in favour of easing restrictions on hiring non-citizens.

Mystery quake

Tampere's Aamulehti reports that a 1.2 magnitude earthquake on Monday centred at Valkeakoski 35 kilometres south of Tampere and 150 km north of Helsinki in the Pirkanmaa region. The quake was recorded and automatically reported by monitoring equipment of the Institute of Seismology at the University of Helsinki.

Aamulehti says that it was unable to contact representatives of the institute for explanation or comments. It did note, however, that a similar reading about one year ago from Nokia turned out to be a blip from construction blasting work.

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