Finland: Helsinki restricts election coffee handouts

People being given soup at a campaign event in Finland Image copyright AFP
Image caption Coffee, soup and snacks have been given away during Finnish election campaigns in the past

Helsinki voters won't be getting much free coffee this election season, after the city banned parties from handing it out in major marketplaces.

The country goes to the polls on 19 April and it's a popular tradition for campaigners to serve steaming cups of the beverage during events. But that's now been stopped after complaints from nearby coffee shop owners, the national broadcaster Yle reports. "Our sales are impacted immediately if the same product can be obtained for free," says Timo Taulavuori from the Tukkutori group, which oversees Helsinki's marketplaces. "This is unfair towards those who make a living from selling coffee." Finns are among the biggest coffee drinkers in the world, with per capita consumption of 1.8 cups per day, second only to The Netherlands.

Perhaps mindful that coffee sellers are voters too, parties have opted to diversify. One campaigner tells Yle that his party is now serving hot juice instead, and another group has gone one better, coupling their own juice with free sweets. Elsewhere the snacks are more hearty. North of Helsinki, in the city of Tampere, Yle reports that politicians have been giving out black sausage, a local delicacy made of pork and pig's blood, which is often eaten with jam. Such handouts are banned in the UK, where the practice is known as "treating", but they are seen elsewhere in Europe. In 2013, a Czech party gave out bags of apricot jam doughnuts to commuters at metro stations in Prague.

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