Poll: Majority oppose cutting Presidential powers in foreign policy
Sharp differences among supporters of different parties
A majority of Finns are opposed to cutting the powers of the Finnish President in foreign policy matters. According to a poll commissioned by Helsingin Sanomat and conducted by Suomen Gallup, 55 per cent of Finns do not want to weaken Presidential powers any further. The proportion of those wanting to maintain the current level of powers has decreased slightly in the past two years.
Two out of every five respondents are ready to strengthen the relative position of the Prime Minister and the government at the expense of that of the President, which is significantly more than in a poll released on Thursday by the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE).
In the YLE survey, 80 per cent of respondents were ready to let the President keep a leading position in foreign policy.
Presidential powers are under review in a committee headed by Christoffer Taxell. The committee hopes to get its proposal on constitutional reform ready by the end of January.
Presidential powers became a hot issue in Finnish politics at the beginning of December when the government announced unilaterally that the President of the Republic would no longer have access to summits of the European Union. This interpretation of the constitution angered President Tarja Halonen, even though it is in line with the views of practically all experts of Finnish constitutional law.
The Social Democrats, led by MP Eero Heinäluoma, have defended Presidential powers intensely, which has partly been seen as a tactical move, in light of current public opinion.
The new constitution will not apply to President Halonen, because the changes envisioned would not take effect until 2012.
The differences among political parties were also reflected in the HS Gallup poll. The staunchest opponents of reducing the powers of the President were supporters of the Social Democratic Party, only 15 per cent of whom were ready to transfer more power to the Prime Minister, while 83 per cent are opposed to cutting Presidential powers.
Clear majorities of supporters of both the Centre Party (56 per cent) and the National Coalition Party (55 per cent) favoured reducing the foreign policy powers of the President.
Only 29 per cent of supporters of the Left Alliance wanted to reduce the powers of the President, as did 36 per cent of supporters of the Greens and 30 per cent of supporters of the True Finns.
The poll involved telephone interviews with 1002 Finns taken between December 7th and 17th in all parts of the country except the Åland Islands. The margin of error is three percentage points.
More on this subject:
Speaker Niinistö: Listen to Halonen
Previously in HS International Edition:
The last President? (6.12.2009)
Government reiterates: Prime Minister and not President to attend EU summits (4.12.2009)
President and Prime Minister still at odds over EU summit issue (3.12.2009)