President and Prime Minister oppose further cuts in Presidential powers
Halonen and Vanhanen remain tight-lipped about possible Presidential candidacy
Both Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen and President Tarja Halonen have come out against further changes to the present constitutional powers of the President.
There have been a number of calls in recent weeks for reductions in the powers of the President. On Saturday, opposition National Coalition Party chairman Jyrki Katainen reiterated his view that the office of the Presidency should be stripped of its remaining powers in foreign policy, and that the President should no longer be the Commander in Chief of the Defence Forces. In his view, the President should focus on ceremonial duties.
There have also been calls from the National Coalition Party to make the Prime Minister Finland's official representative at summit meetings of the European Union. Finland is currently represented at EU summits by both the President and the Prime Minister.
Similar calls have also come from the ranks of the Social Democratic Party.
The chair of the Parliament's Constitutional Committee, Arja Alho (SDP), said in a recent newspaper interview that the Presidency should be stripped of all of its remaining political power. Liisa Jaakonsaari (SDP), the chair of the Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, said that Prime Minister Vanhanen, instead of President Halonen, should have delivered Finland's speech at the recent meeting of EU leaders and US President George W. Bush.
Prime Minister Vanhanen said on Saturday that the calls by Alho and Jaakonsaari were "quite serious", because both of them "are in key positions within their own party in these questions". Vanhanen saw Jaakonsaari's suggestion that he should have deprived President Halonen of her right to speak at the meeting with Bush as a call for "a coup d'etat".
"Now we need to clarify what they are aiming at", Vanhanen said on a Saturday morning interview programme on YLE TV1. "I think it would be good if those who demand changes would give reasons why they want those changes."
Social Democratic Party Secretary Eero Heinäluoma emphasised on Saturday that there has not been any discussion within the SDP on altering Presidential powers. "The common view is that the new constitution has worked fairly well."
He also said that with a new Presidential election coming soon, it would be appropriate if the next President were chosen on the basis of the present Presidential powers.
President Halonen herself said on Saturday that the new constitution emphasises cooperation between the branches of government.
During a visit to the community of Kuortane in Western Finland on Saturday, Halonen said that cooperation between the President and Prime Minister has gone smoothly, according to the spirit of the constitution.
Commenting on the view expressed recently by National Coalition Party MEP Alexander Stubb, that the new EU constitution would bar access of the Finnish President to summits of the EU, Halonen said that the issue is one for the Finnish Parliament to decide, and that it should not concern Members of the European Parliament.
Neither President Halonen nor Prime Minister Vanhanen would reveal what their plans concerning the Presidential elections early next year might be.
Vanhanen said that he would not comment on the issue until April.
According to Halonen, "Political parties will make their decisions, and I will make mine when it is time."
Previously in HS International Edition:
President Halonen speaks to Bush about Russia and West Balkans (23.2.2005)
National Coalition chairman dismisses criticism by President Halonen (7.2.2005)