Vanhanen versus public debate

Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre Party) doesn't want (fi) ministers to answer media polls. He was motivated to ban the practice because Alma Media, a publishing house behind several newspapers, wanted to know what ministers thought about making public the so-called Rosenholz archive - a list of Finns who had contacts with the Stasi that's currently in the possession of the Finnish security police. Two ministers out of 20 answered that survey. Justice Minister Tuija Brax (Green League) defended Vanhanen's edict as being in line with previous practice. She said that the purpose wasn't to stop ministers from talking to the press, but rather that it applied to surveys which only gave a set of simple alternatives. On the other hand, Vanhanen's economic adviser Jukka Ihanus said that the ban was about making sure that the government has only one public opinion. Vanhanen, himself, appropriately enough, declined to comment.

This isn't the first sign that Vanhanen is not a fan of public debate. The government's position on the EU's not-a-constitution had to be pried loose by the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee. In the public daycare fee row, Vanhanen's reaction was to increase secrecy in the drafting stage for new legislation. Last weekend's Ilta-Sanomat carried a long article on Vanhanen relationship with party secretary Jarmo Korhonen, in which a few anonymous Centrist insiders defended Korhonen's habit of disagreeing in public by claiming that Vanhanen tries to avoid intra-party debate. Now this edict comes to light. None of these examples is particularly bad if considered on its own, but put together there's at least some cause to worry.

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