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"Unfathomable": President pushes back against book's claims of overreach

President Sauli Niinistö has refuted suggestions in a recently-published book that he may have crossed the line by dabbling in domestic politics.

Mäntyniemen herra julkaisutilaisuus Helsingissä 13. elokuuta.
The Aamulehti journalists launched their book on President Sauli Niinistö in Helsinki on 13 August. Image: Onni Ojala / Lehtikuva

On Wednesday President Sauli Niinistö published a release on the website of the office of the president, repudiating insinuations in a newly-published book that he overstepped the limits of his presidential powers.

In the statement, Niinistö said he saw it necessary to correct two of the claims made in the book released Monday by Aamulehti journalists Matti Mörttinen and Lauri Nurmi, "Sauli Niinistö - Lord of Mäntyniemi".

Labour market talks not secret

One of the claims in the book was that in 2015, as the government struggled to cobble together a social accord with labour market leaders to reduce the unit cost of labour and make the country more competitive, Niinistö convened a secret meeting to help advance an agreement.

On Wednesday, Niinistö said that in autumn 2015 he had been contacted by both employer and employee representatives once talk began to circulate that the government would resort to legislation if it couldn't broker a deal with labour market leaders. The President said that the parties requested that he organise a meeting.

"I discussed the matter with the prime minister and as a result of his positive attitude I invited the parties to Mäntyniemi. My overriding concern was a combative atmosphere rather than the competitiveness agreement itself," Niinistö explained.

He also said he hoped to improve the country's poor economic situation. "It's now been said that the event was secret. However there was no secrecy and I raised the occasion in a message of mine a few weeks later," he continued.

Niinistö said that in his New Year's address that year, he directed remarks at labour market leaders, encouraging them to find middle ground. He noted that he also commented on ongoing debate about Finland's economic malaise.

"At that time my speech did not generate an iota of criticism about interfering in domestic politics," he pointed out.

Claims about pressuring Fortum "unfathomable"

The President also tackled suggestions in the book that he pressured majority state-owned energy firm Fortum to back Fennovoima's planned nuclear power plant in Pyhäjoki, western Finland.

"The claim is unfathomable. There has been no attempt to present even a single fact to support it. I have not in any way pressed Fortum into the project," he wrote.

Niinistö said that as far as he was concerned the matter had been thoroughly thrashed out in 2015, when the government had taken some flak over similar assertions.

Two books on Niinistö

The Aamulehti journalists were not the only ones to debut books based on the president this week. Another media veteran, Risto Uimonen, former editor-in-chief of the Oulu-based paper Kaleva, also released a tome on the subject.

In the statement, Niinistö said that it is understandable that there was a desire to analyse his actions and their background publicly in books. However he pointed out that he was not involved in the creation of either.

He added that because he was excluded, there would be "larger or smaller factual errors and misleading interpretations". And concluded that it would be "impossible and even needless to publicly comment" on them all.

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