Encyclopedia > Politics of Finland

  Article Content

Politics of Finland

Table of contents

Government Finland has a primarily parliamentary system, although the president also has some notable powers. The main executive power lies in the cabinet headed by the prime minister. Matters concerning national security are divided between the president and the cabinet. The cabinet shares responsibility of foreign affairs with the president. Before the consitutional rewrite, which was completed in 2000, the president enjoyed more power.

Finns enjoy individual and political freedoms, and suffrage is universal at 18. The country's population is ethnically homogeneous with no sizable immigrant population. Few tensions exist between the Finnish-speaking majority and the Swedish-speaking minority.

President

Elected for a 6-year term, the president:
  • Handles foreign policy in cooperation with the Cabinet, except for certain international agreements and decisions of peace or war, which must be submitted to the parliament;
  • Is commander-in-chief of the armed forces;
  • Has some decree and appointive powers;
  • May block legislation by pocket veto, and call extraordinary parliamentary sessions; and
  • Formally appoints the prime minister and the rest of the cabinet (Council of State).

Cabinet

The Council of State is made up of the prime minister and ministers for the various departments of the central government as well as an ex-officio member, the Chancellor of Justice. Ministers are not obliged to be members of the Eduskunta and need not be formally identified with any political party.

The president, after hearing the parliament, nominates a prime minister candidate for the parliament to approve in a vote. The prime minister chooses the rest of the cabinet.

Parliament

Constitutionally, the 200-member unicameral Eduskunta is the supreme authority in Finland. It may alter the constitution, bring about the resignation of the Council of State, and override presidential vetoes; its acts are not subject to judicial review. Legislation may be initiated by the Council of State, or one of the Eduskunta members.

The Eduskunta is elected on the basis of proportional representation. All persons 18 or older, except military personnel on active duty and a few high judicial officials, are eligible for election. The regular parliamentary term is four years; however, the president may dissolve the Eduskunta and order new elections at the request of the prime minister and after consulting the speaker of parliament.

Ruling majority

Finland's proportional representation system encourages a multitude of political parties and has resulted in many coalition governments.

In the parliamentary elections of 16 March 2003, there were two dominating parties: the Center Party (KESK) got 55 seats, and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) got 53 seats, in the 200-seat Eduskunta. A new government was formed by Center and Social Democrats together with the Swedish People's Party.

Major political parties

The Social Democratic Party of Finland (SDP) is mostly supported by the urban working class but it also has some support among small farmers, white-collar workers, and professionals. In the 1995 parliamentary elections, SDP gained a plurality in Finland's parliament with 28% of the vote. But as it won far less than an overall majority, a five-party governing coalition was formed, baptized the "Rainbow-coalition". In the 1999 general election, the SDP maintained its plurality with 22.9%, but the Center party came in as a near second with 22.4%. The coalition continued with little changes.

The Leftist Alliance (LA), the SDP's rival on the left, gained 11% of the vote in 1995 and joined the SDP-led government. In the 1999 elections it again got 11% of the vote, and continued in the government. The LA was formed in May 1990 and replaced the People's Democratic League, the group that represented the Finnish Communist Party in the Eduskunta. Political activity by Communists was legalized after the Continuation War in 1944.

Finland's two other major parties are the Center Party (Keskusta), traditionally representing rural interests, and the Conservative National Coalition (Kokoomus), which draws its major support from the business community and urban professionals. The Center won nearly 20% and the Conservatives 18% of the vote in 1995. In the 1995 elections, they won 22.9% and 21% of the vote, respectively. The Conservatives were the second-largest party in the SDP-led coalition, which is rounded out by the Swedish People's Party and the Green League (which left the Rainbow-coalition after the decision to build a fifth nuclear reactor).

Commonly used Party abbreviations

Former parties:
  • ED = Kansallinen Edistyspuolue (National Progressive Party, liberal 1918-51);
  • IKL = Isänmaallinen Kansanliike (Patriotic People's Movement, fascist ex-Lapua 1932-44);
  • KP = Finnish People's Party (1951-65, from 1965 part of LKP);
  • LM = Lapua Movement (fascist, 1929-32);
  • ML = Agrarian League (1906-65, renamed 1965 KESK);
  • SKDL = Finnish People's Democratic League (communists and socialists, 1944-90);
  • SKL = Finnish Christian League (renamed KD 2001);
  • SKP = Suomen Kommunistinen Puolue (Communist Party of Finland 1918-90, merged with SKDL into VAS);
  • SMP = Finnish Agrarian Party (1959-95);
  • VL = Liberal League (liberal, 1951-65, merges with KP as LDP)

Judicial system

The judicial system is divided between courts with regular civil and criminal jurisdiction and special courts with responsibility for litigation between the public and the administrative organs of the state. Finnish law is codified. Although there is no writ of habeas corpus or bail, the maximum period of pre-trial detention has been reduced to four days. The Finnish court system consists of local courts, regional appellate courts, and a Supreme Court.

Administrative divisions

Finland has six provinces. Below the provincial level, they are divided into cities, townships, and communes administered by municipal and communal councils elected by proportional representation once every four years. At the provincial level, the 5 mainland provinces are administered by provincial boards composed of civil servants, each headed by a presidentially appointed governor. The boards are responsible to the Ministry of the Interior and play a supervisory and coordinating role within the provinces.

The island province of Åland is located near the 60th parallel between Sweden and Finland. It enjoys local autonomy by virtue of an international convention of 1921, implemented most recently by the Act on Åland Self-Government[?] of 1951. The islands are further distinguished by the fact that they are entirely Swedish-speaking. Government is vested in the provincial council, which consists of 30 delegates elected directly by Åland's citizens.


Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Finland
conventional short form: Finland
local long form: Suomen Tasavalta
local short form: Suomi

Data code: FI

Government type: republic

Capital: Helsinki

Administrative divisions: 6 provinces (läänit, singular - lääni); Åland, Etela-Suomen Lääni, Ita-Suomen Lääni, Lansi-Suomen Lääni, Lappi, Oulun Lääni

Independence: 6 December 1917 (from Russia)

National holiday: Independence Day, 6 December (1917)

Constitution: 1 March 2000 (full rewrite; first version: 17 July 1919)

Legal system: civil law system based on Swedish law; Supreme Court may request legislation interpreting or modifying laws; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Tarja Halonen (since 1 March 2000) see also: President of Finland
head of government: Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (since 24 June 2003) and Deputy Prime Minister Antti Kalliomäki[?] (since 17 April 2003) see also: list of Prime Ministers of Finland
cabinet: Council of State or Valtioneuvosto appointed by the president, responsible to Parliament
elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term; election last held 6 February 2000 (next to be held February 2006); prime minister appointed by the president based on the parliament's vote after parliamentary elections
election results: Tarja Halonen elected president; percent of vote - Tarja Halonen (SDP) 51.6%, Esko Aho (Kesk) 48.4%
note: government coalition - KESK, SDP, SFP

Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament or Eduskunta (200 seats; members are elected by popular vote on a proportional basis to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 16 March 2003 (next to be held March 2007)
election results: percent of vote per party:

seats per party:
  • KESK 55,
  • SDP 53,
  • KOK 40,
  • VAS 19,
  • VIHR 14,
  • SFP 8,
  • KD 7,
  • PS 3,
  • Åland representative 1.

Judicial branch: Supreme Court or Korkein Oikeus, judges appointed by the president

Registered political parties as of March 2003 and their leaders where known:

  • Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue (SDP): Paavo Lipponen
  • Suomen Keskusta (KESK): Anneli Jäätteenmäki
  • Kansallinen Kokoomus (KOK): Ville Itälä
  • Svenska folkpartiet i Finland (SFP): Jan-Erik Enestam
  • Suomen Maaseudun Puolue (SMP)
  • Suomen Kristillisdemokraatit (KD): Bjarne Kallis
  • Kirjava "Puolue" - Elonkehän Puolesta (KIPU)
  • Vihreä liitto (VIHR): Osmo Soininvaara
  • Vasemmistoliitto (VAS): Suvi-Anne Siimes
  • Perussuomalaiset (PS)
  • Eläkeläiset Kansan Asialla (EKA)
  • Kommunistinen Työväenpuolue (KTP): Hannu Harju
  • Suomen Kommunistinen Puolue (SKP): Yrjö Hakanen
  • Vaihtoehtoväki
  • Vapaan Suomen Liitto: Ilkka Hakalehto
  • Liberaalit (LIB): Tomi Riihimäki
  • Muutosvoimat Suomi (MVS): Ilkka Hakalehto
  • Köyhien Asialla (KA): Terttu Savola
  • Yhteisvastuu puolue (YVP)
  • Suomi Nousee - Kansa Yhdistyy (SNKY): Väinö Kuisma
  • Suomen Kansan Sinivalkoiset (SKS): Olavi Mäenpää

International organization participation: AfDB, AsDB, Australia Group, BIS, CBSS, CCC, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, EIB, EMU, ESA, EU, FAO, G-9[?], IADB[?], IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA[?], IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, International Maritime Organization, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, NAM (guest), NC, NEA[?], NIB[?], NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, PFP[?], UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNFICYP[?], UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL[?], UNIKOM, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UNMOGIP[?], UNMOP, UNTSO, UPU, WEU (observer), WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, Zangger Committee

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Jaakko Tapani Laajava
chancery: 3301 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 298-5800
FAX: [1] (202) 298-6030
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles and New York

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Eric Edelman
embassy: Itainen Puistotie 14A, FIN-00140, Helsinki
mailing address: APO AE 09723
telephone: [358] (9) 171931
FAX: [358] (9) 174681

Flag description: white with a blue cross that extends to the edges of the flag; the vertical part of the cross is shifted to the hoist side in the style of the Dannebrog (Danish flag)



All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

 
  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
 
 
  
  Featured Article
Millburn, New Jersey

... the age of 18, 3.2% from 18 to 24, 28.4% from 25 to 44, 25.1% from 45 to 64, and 13.1% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 39 years. For every 100 females ...