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Wednesday's papers: Finns Party chair scare, working hour privilege, island made public

In their mid-week editions Finnish dailies write about the possibility of the government disbanding if Finns Party MEP Jussi Halla-aho were to be made the party chair, social and health care sector union workers being paid to work less and an ex-military island off the coast of Helsinki opening up to the public for the first time.

Sotilaskäytössä olleen Isosaaren hiekkarannalta avautuu näkymä Helsinkiin. Isosaari sijaitsee Santahaminasta suoraan etelään.
The pristine Isosaari island is one of this Wednesday's paper news topics. Image: Senaatti-kiinteistöt

During the Finns Party's colourful and controversial history few MPs stand out quite like Jussi Halla-aho, who is also an MEP and a popular, outspoken member of his party. However in the past, courts have also found Halla-aho guilty of crimes including incitement to ethnic hatred and disturbing religious worship. On Wednesday regional paper Aamulehti published the results of a poll in which Halla-aho featured heavily.

The question posed by the survey, commissioned by Alma Media and conducted by Tietoykkönen, was "What do you think will happen to the Finnish coalition government if Jussi Halla-aho is chosen to be the Finns Party chair?" A straightforward question, with some striking answers: 57 percent of respondents say the government would either falter or fall, an AL graph shows.

Populism researcher Emilia Palonen from the University of Helsinki comments in the piece that a Halla-aho-lead Finns Party would be far more divided than one run by their leader for two decades, Timo Soini.

"Many Finns Party supporters feel that the government hasn't had their interests at heart and that the party's stint in the coalition has left much to be desired," Palonen says in the article. "The so-called protest logic of a populist outfit doesn't work in government."

Palonen even says that some of the party's own followers may be hoping for the downfall of the current three-party government.

Full pay for short day

Meanwhile in tabloid Ilta-Sanomat responses rage over a summertime policy at two employee organisations, namely social and health care union Tehy and practical nurse union SuPer. From June to September employees at both offices will be working shorter, 6-hour days while getting full-time salaries.

"This is a significant advantage," SuPer board chair Silja Paavola brazenly admits in IS. "It's also a relic of the past."

The situation is ironic (and some say unfair) as Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's competitiveness pact is actively extending the working year of some 90,000 of SuPer's members, for instance.

Tehy chief Rauno Vesivalo says that the union's 120 workers are unwilling to part with their negotiated summertime privilege.

Historic island demilitarized

Finland is home to many thousands of islands, some of which have been strictly military in function for decades. Helsingin Sanomat writes about Isosaari island's untouched features, unseen by civilian eyes until next Saturday, when the island will officially be open to all comers.

There have been structures on the island since the 18th century, and the Finnish Defense Forces have used the island as a tactical fortress location until now. In fact, HS writes, military training ended on the island in 2012.

From Helsinki's Market Square it's a 40-minute and 15-euro boat ride to Isosaari, which features attractive qualities such as a 50-tent camping site with water pump (camping is 10 euros a night), a canteen, a restaurant, a beach and a public sauna.

But perhaps the most unusual thing on the island, in addition to the untouched and freely growing natural habitats, is its 9-hole golf course. The course was constructed by the garrison placed on the island, and is described, HS writes, as the hardest in the country.

The City of Helsinki will not be purchasing the island from government-owned Senaatti Real Estate, the daily also reports.

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