Harry Harkimo, the chairperson of Movement Now, attended an election-night event in Helsinki on 2 April 2023. Harkimo on Wednesday said the Parliament should reconvene in the middle of its summer break to gauge confidence in Minister of Finance Riikka Purra (PS), who has faced criticism for a string of racist and violence-inciting online comments. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)

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SEVERAL opposition leaders have expressed their readiness to suspend their summer break in order to gauge confidence in Minister of Finance Riikka Purra (PS).

The discussion was kindled on Wednesday by Harry Harkimo, the chairperson of Movement Now: “Every representative should voice their opinion on the issue, and the best way to do so is through a vote of confidence,” he argued to Helsingin Sanomat.

“It doesn’t help to waffle about this for two months before determining whether there’s confidence in the minister of finance.”

Members of the Parliament are presently on a summer break, with the autumn session not scheduled to start until September. The Parliament’s rules of procedure stipulate that the speaker can summon representatives to resume an interrupted parliamentary session.

The Speaker of Parliament is ex-chairperson of the Finns Party Jussi Halla-aho.

Purra has come under severe media scrutiny over a series of racist and violence-inciting comments posted 15 years ago under the username ‘riikka’ on the blog of Halla-aho. Purra on Tuesday issued an apology for her past comments, only a day after declaring that she would not even entertain the notion.

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) on Wednesday stated on YLE A-studio that there is no need to suspend the summer break, arguing that the government is able to function. He stated at a news conference earlier yesterday that he continues to have confidence in Purra, saying she made the right decision to apologise.

On Tuesday, the ruling quartet issued a rare joint declaration pledging to promote equality, gender equality and non-discrimination in society.

“Everyone is equal before the law. No one may be discriminated against based on their gender, age, ethnic or national origin, nationality, language, religion or belief, opinion, disability, state of health, sexual orientation or any other personal characteristic,” the declaration reads.

It also promised to issue a statement on efforts to promote equality and non-discrimination at the beginning of the autumn session. The issuance of a government statement can be followed by a vote on confidence in the government or an individual minister.

Also the Green League, Left Alliance and Social Democrats on Wednesday voiced their readiness to convene in the middle of the summer recess.

“What we’ve seen in recent days has unfortunately not invoked confidence. We’re talking about absolutely key questions, such as Finland’s standing, the government’s ability to function and the actions of individual ministers,” Antti Lindtman, the chairperson of the Social Democratic Parliamentary Group, said to Helsingin Sanomat.

Halla-aho, he added, should consider resuming the parliamentary session purely from a parliamentary perspective rather than through the party-political lens.

Sofia Virta, the chairperson of the Green League, viewed that the issue deals not only with Purra, but with confidence in the “weak leadership” of Orpo and the entire Finns Party Parliamentary Group.

“It’s unclear what the zero tolerance for racism the government has agreed on means in a situation where many members of the Finns Party’s ministerial group have published racist writings in recent times,” she said.

Virta also drew attention to growing concerns among businesses about how the racism debate could impact the country image, export opportunities and investment outlook in Finland.

“It’s not a problem for us to suspend the break and gauge confidence in Purra,” echoed Li Andersson, the chairperson of the Left Alliance. “But the speaker is the one who reconvenes the Parliament, so all eyes are on him.”

Annika Saarikko, the chairperson of the Centre, told Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday that Orpo can decide whether it is in the national interest to wait until the autumn.

“The Centre has clarified its stance on the government programme by voicing its lack of confidence in the programme a couple of weeks ago,” she said to the newspaper. “The government hasn’t submitted a single proposal, meaning it hasn’t started its work. The events of last few weeks are such that they create a lot of confusion and bring up issues that have had to be rejected clearly.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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