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A well made bait for Matti Vanhanen
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-07-21 09:43:10
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It must be a really slow month for the Finnish media, that’s the only way I can explain the sudden interest in the governing party’s economics, and the prime minister’s insolvency, including hints of corruption. And all this in a country that proudly keeps reminding us that it’s in the top of the list of the least corrupted countries in the world! Contradiction, or just politics? I have the feeling that it is the latter; it’s all about politics and the next national elections that start showing on the horizon.

Oddly, on the same time the media is ready to point to corruption in other countries. There is continuing talk about the arm sales to Slovenia, reminding me of an old saying; that the camel always laughs at the other’s hunch! But before we get to Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, let’s make two things clear about Finland. First of all, corruption in everyday life is nearly impossible in this country. And trust me, I know, I live in Finland and I have lived in other countries and I have seen what corruption means and how it works in everyday life. Don’t worry, with that I include some of the big western democracies! Apparently that’s exactly what all the surveys and studies count and that’s exactly what brings Finland to the global lead of the least corrupted countries. In everyday life, nobody even thinks to bribe anybody – especially a civil servant – to get the necessary service. And everybody obeys the laws, with a few exceptions of course – nobody is perfect – but in general things work for the good of the citizen and the state.

With that we get to a second thing; of course there is corruption in Finland, like in every single country, especially in politics. But in politics there are the obvious semantics, what is legal and what is ethic. And as long something is legal …it’s not corruption! You see, very correctly the parliamentarians in modern democracies feel the danger of corruption. They have legitimized a blue print of how politicians and the political parties are funded, and this blue print has to do with the maximum amount and time agenda, but there stands the line between legal and ethic. And please don’t worry; it’s not a Finnish phenomenon. Actually the USA, UK and France are countries that have become models of this exchange.

It comes down to individuals who can fund a politician or a political party - how many times a year, and how much. The idea is to avoid dependency and exchange of favours; you see nowadays participating in an election means millions and in the case of American elections, billions. Money that could have paid Africa’s debt, were spent in a few months from people who were ready to …save Africa! As long as politicians and political parties keep within the boundaries of this blue print, everything is legal and nice; everybody is innocent and definitely not corrupted. Of course, individuals are lost in the labyrinth of relationships, so in the end it is difficult to see the actual sum a certain interest group has paid to a politician or a political party. And this is where ethics come in. When it comes to funding and corruption, the question should not be if they are legal, but if they are ethical.

The funny thing is that despite the fact that the legal system will never find anything illegal or signs of corruption in the labyrinth; the politicians, the political parties and the funders know very well who, how much, and when the time comes they know how to exchange favours …of course legally! The whole talk in media, including in the state news agency, is in vain and it will definitely not lead anywhere except – and here comes the motive - of spoiling the image of other politicians and in this case the image of Matti Vanhanen, leaving unproven shadows, suspicions and gossip.

Vanhanen hasn’t been the new wind of change everybody was expecting from the prestigious and young politician, actually the only thing he did for his legacy was to prove that he can flirt, and according his ex-girlfriend he is a …so and so player in bed! For the rest, especially compared with former Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, or the charismatic former leader of the Conservative party, candidate for the presidency and very active politically Mr. Sauli Niinistö he is losing big!  The two managed to be popular even with the opposition voters while Matti Vanhanen makes even the Keskusta voters doubt!

The mistake Matti Vanhanen did in this case, I think, was that he was too quick to answer the allegations and then get involved, with the unbelievable comment that the Prime Minister and the leader of the Keskusta (the Centre Party) has nothing to do with party funding and that this is the job of the party’s secretary. Amazingly nobody tells us what the leader of the party is doing, I suppose the leader of the party is there to smile and look prime-ministerial for the photographers. The truth is that Matti Vanhanen and the Centre party went straight for the bait and caused a problem in a very self-destructing way from something based on semantics. And of course the opposition is going to base a whole campaign on this, especially with elections getting closer. He is going to spend a whole campaign, which apparently started early, apologizing for something that everybody in the political world is doing without exception.

As for the rest, well it remains to be seen, and we will have plenty of time to watch it and enjoy. The pity part is that the national news agency, being an institution paid for by the taxpayers, has become a pawn in a simple political game and a part of the Prime Minister’s party gaff!

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