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Wednesday's papers: Party poll, gang tattoos, weekend winds

Morning newspapers look at party support holding steady, the legal status of gang tattoos and stormy weather on the way.

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Finnish army conscripts get ski training at northern garrisons. Image: Vesa Winberg/Yle

Finland's largest circulation daily, Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday published its latest poll of political party support.

The poll's main finding is that backing for the various parties has remained more or less stable over the last few months.

Helsingin Sanomat does note, though, that the results are good news for the Centre Party. This poll showed a very slight increase in voter support for the Centre, up to 12 percent from the 11 percent registered in a similar survey in December. While that is not a large gain, it has moved further away from the 10 percent mark which Helsingin Sanomat says is considered a kind of "crisis borderline" figure.

Backing for the SDP also edged up to just over 16 percent. The paper points out that the party has rising support since PM Sanna Marin took over the Prime Ministership in December.

We covered the December upheaval in our weekly All Points North podcast. You can listen to the pod via this embedded player, Yle Areena, Spotify, iTunes or your normal pod player using the RSS feed.

Finland's new government is led by five women. Audio: Yle News

On the opposition side of the aisle, voter backing for the Finns Party continues at just over 22 percent and for the National Coalition at slightly more than 17 percent.

The Kantar TNS poll, commissioned by Helsingin Sanomat, interviewed 2,204 voters in late January and early February.

Marin in Berlin

The Kuopio-based Savon Sanomat was among the papers reporting that Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin will be in Berlin on Wednesday where she is scheduled to meet with German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Savon Sanomat says that Marin's visit comes at an interesting moment, in part because of what are expected to be heated negotiations in Brussels later this week over the EU budget.

As a major net contributor, Germany will play a key role in those talks. Finland is among the member states that consider the latest budget proposal as too high.

Although Germany also reportedly favours trimming the budget proposal, Savon Sanomat notes that the German news magazine Der Spiegel has reported that Merkel wants to "modernise" the budget, investing in future-oriented projects at the expense of, for example agricultural subsidies.

For Finland, defending agricultural development funds will be one of the most important issues in this week's talks. One the other hand, writes Savon Sanomat, Finland also wants to prioritise support for research and innovation.

Gang tattoos

In January, a court in Porvoo placed a temporary ban on all activities by the criminal organisation United Brotherhood (UB) and a permanent prohibition of all UB activities is expected this spring.

The decision also banned the use of gang insignia.

According to the Oulu daily Kaleva, the National Police Board says that this ban extends to tattoos.

The paper quotes Police Inspector Teemu Saukoniemi as saying that the gang's insignia cannot be publicly displayed, regardless of the medium, and police can order anyone with UB gang tattoos to cover them up. Failure to do so could bring a fine and possible court action.

The paper also asked Saukoniemi if former gang members could be ordered to have tattoos removed.

"Since there is no legal precedent, I can't say if a court could order the removal of a gang tattoo. I don't believe that would work in Finland," said Teemu Saukoniemi.

Windy weekend

The tabloid Iltalehti is among the papers warning readers to be ready for windy weather this weekend.

A major storm is brewing in the Atlantic, expected to hit hard at the British Isles and bring high winds to northern Europe, including Finland.

Right now, the weekend forecast includes winds of 17-19 metres per second. Foreca meteorologist Kristian Roine told the paper that's already close to severe storm levels.

In addition to high winds, the weekend forecast includes rain, sleet and snow in various parts of the country.

According to the, the Finns easily think of February as a month spent outdoors in cold, sunny weather. Confirming the obvious, Iltalehti writes, "This February is anything but that."

Snow army, grass army

Rovaniemi's Lapin Kansa presents its own twist on the lack of snow in much of the country.

This paper reports that according to the commander of the Finnish Army, Finland may soon find that it has a military force with a north-south split of troops specialised in different types of winter conditions.

This year, new conscripts are getting very different basic training, depending on whether they are starting service in the north or the south of the country.

In the north, instruction starts with a period of winter survival training, including skiing and digging temporary shelters in the snow.

Lieutenant General Petri Hulkko, the commander of the Finnish Army recently said that it's likely that conscripts serving in southern parts of the country may never ski at all during their term of duty.

"It's a fact," General Hulkko told a press conference last week. This winter in particular has shown that Finland has split into two different parts."

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