Monday 1/24/22

Government forced to withdraw movement restriction bill as unconstitutional

According to the Parliamentary Constitutional Law Committee, the measures proposed by the Government are "disproportional" and cannot be considered "necessary within the meaning of the Constitution."

Prime Minister Sanna Marin, last week when she presented the bill to Parliament. Photo: Hanne Salonen/Eduskunta.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin, last week when she presented the bill to Parliament. Photo: Hanne Salonen/Eduskunta.

The government's partial lockdown proposal, which includes imposing restrictions on freedom of movement and close contact in Finland is a stillborn child.

The Government chaired by the social democrat leader Sanna Marín (SDP) announced its withdrawal on Wednesday 31 March, after the Constitutional Law Committee of the Finnish Parliament, which must approve all the bills, ruled that the measures included in it are unconstitutional.

The proposal was born surrounded by a strong political controversy due to the initial lack of support from some groups of the five-party government coalition and also by the frontal rejection of the opposition. 

Last Friday, and despite the alleged urgency to combat the spread of the epidemic, it was clear that it would not be approved in time to impose a lockdown for the four-day Easter holidays. The reason given was the parliamentary timing, which would not allow it. After that fiasco, some opposition politicians already openly assumed that the restrictions would never see the light of day.

The final blow against restrictions that for the first time would oblige Finns by law to stay at home except for reasons of first necessity and that would allow the police to fine for not wearing a mask came on Wednesday.

Leadership clash?

The Constitutional Law Committee submitted a strong statement on the proposal and said that the restrictions proposed are unconstitutional.

In particular, the proposal to prohibit the movement is totally contrary to the requirement of proportionality, given the epidemiological reasons presented, and cannot be considered necessary in the manner referred to in Article 23 of the Constitution, the committee said.

Curiously, the Constitutional Law Committee that has rejected the plan is not a body controlled by politicians opposed to the center-left government. It is chaired by the also Social Democrat Antti Rinne, the former prime minister who was forced to resign from office in December 2019 in favor of Sanna Marin.

"The basic solution of the government's proposal to ban movement in principle is completely disproportional and cannot be considered necessary within the meaning of the Constitution," said Antti Rinne

“Prohibitions and restrictions must be directed precisely at the sources of infection: private gatherings and events, staying and moving around in groups and visiting shops and services – restrictions specifically related to these, rather than prohibitions,” he added.

Marin replied with tweets

For her part, Prime Minister Sanna Marin wrote a tweet announcing the withdrawal of the bill and an extraordinary meeting of the Government for Thursday. 

In the same thread of tweets, Marin insisted on the seriousness of the situation and asked Finns to avoid unnecessary travel and social contacts during the Easter holidays.