Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Finnish corruption: the plank edition

There might be a few readers of this blog who wouldn’t know about the “Great Finnish Election Funding Scandal of 2009”™ if they hadn’t read about it here. So with this sense of grave responsibility, I thought I should do an update. It has got worse. The latest news is the spin off “Great Finnish Birch Plank Bribery of Scandal of 2009”™. Don’t let anyone tell you that Finnish politics isn’t gripping stuff.

Actually, it is getting rather serious because YLE, the national broadcaster (think: BBC, just a lot smaller and a bit more 80s looking) dedicated a current affair programme to accusations from an anonymous source that Matti Vanhanen, the prime minister, accepted free construction material from a building firm back in the 1990s. Firstly, the PM categorically denies this. I’m no big fan of Vanhanen – his party, the Centre, is a rather alien concept to many non-Finns – but nevertheless he has been so firm in denouncing the reports I can only conclude there are two possibilities. The first is that he’s completely innocent; or secondly (and for the cynics) he knows there is no way YLE can prove it. Anything else and he is political toast.

The context is that Vanhanen is very closely associated with the foundation (for British readers I think it is actually a housing association in our terms) that is at the middle of the Centre party's recent trauma. It’s purpose is to provide housing for disadvantaged young people, and the accusation against it is that it has received money from the government owned gambling monopoly (think: National Lottery in the UK) for this, but also channelled relatively large amounts of cash to campaigns of Centre Party candidates and MPs. Vanhanen has been a board member of the foundation through his political career and its chairman during the 1990s. He has also received campaign funds from it. YLE’s mole claims that whilst he was building his own house, the now-prime minister accepted free but valuable building materials from a construction company that wanted more big building contracts from this foundation that Vanhanen chaired at the time.

As stated above, the PM totally denies this. He say the only thing he got from the company in question was a pile of birch planks that he built a book shelf from and the lumber was fully paid for. I think the PM should let the media inspect the bookshelf in question – I don’t think he can lose. If it is endearingly amateurish and wonky, the Finnish electorate would see the PM even more as the unpretentious Finnish everyman – an image he has tried to project. If the bookshelf is Germanic in its precision and looks very professional, the PM will be seen as an accomplished jack-of-all-trades: exactly the type of man you need to oversee the various and complex portfolios, egos and interests of a coalition government. We need to see your bookshelf Prime Minister! Democracy itself demands its.

I live in a country where planks might bring down the government. Go figure.


otyikondo said...

I live in a country where planks might bring down the government. Go figure.

Yes, it might have been better to choose Rome, where silky flanks, stilettoed shanks, and paid skanks might yet bring down Burlesquoni.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

Dude - that's poetry. :-) Turn it into a short letter and send it to the Economist, they always like a snappy and witty one as the last letter to the editor!