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Introduction to Finland‟s politicalsystem Politics of Finland takes effect in a structure of parliamentary representative democratic republic and of multi-party system. President of Finland is head of state, conducts foreign policy, and is Commander-in-chief of Finnish Defense Forces. PM of Finland is head of government, whose responsibility is to exercise executive power. Legislative power lays in Parliament of Finland; the government‟s right to revise or expand legislation is restricted. Judiciary is independent of executive and legislature. Judiciary is made up of two structures, regular courts and executive courts, supervised by the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court, respectively. Executive courts review cases in which official decisions are decided upon. There is no “Constitutional Court” – a law‟s legitimacy can be determined only as relevant to a single court case.
Introduction to Finland‟s politicalsystem – cont. While Finland has a mostly parliamentary system, president has some important powers. Foreign policy is headed by president, “in co-operation” with cabinet; the same relates to issues in regarding national security. Major executive power rests in cabinet directed by PM. Prior to the redrafting of the constitution, completed in 2000, president enjoyed more power. Finns have both individual and political freedoms. Suffrage age in Finland is 18; Finnish women became the first in the world to win unlimited rights both to vote and to serve in parliament.
Constitution First adopted on July 17, 1919, Finnish constitution was rewritten on March 1, 2000. Old constitution contained four constitutional laws and several amendments, replaced by new constitution. Civil law system in Finland is modeled on Sweden‟s law. Supreme Court (Finnish: korkein oikeus (KKO), Swedish: högsta domstolen) may ask for legislation that interpret or changes existing laws. President nominates judges.
Executive Branch Even though foreign policy is formally president‟s duty, Finland has a parliamentary system. Executive power lies mostly in cabinet (Finnish Council of State), led by PM. Leader of party obtaining biggest support in elections for parliament, who also becomes cabinet PM, is charged with responsibility for creating the cabinet out of several political parties and discussing its platform. However, any minister and the cabinet must, as a whole, have maintained trust of parliament and can be voted out, resign or be replaced. Council of State consists of PM and ministers for diverse departments of the central government along with an ex-officio member, Chancellor of Justice. In official practice, “cabinet” (valtioneuvosto) are ministers which include PM and Chancellor of Justice, where as “government” (hallitus) is cabinet directed by president. In popular practice, hallitus (with president) can also refer to valtioneuvosto (without president).
President Elected to six-year term, president: Manages foreign affairs of Finland in cooperation with Cabinet, excluding specific international agreements of peace or war, which must be presented to parliament. Is Commander-in-Chief of armed forces. Has some ruling and appointive powers. Endorses laws, and can call extraordinary parliamentary assemblies. Formally nominates PM of Finland chosen by Parliament, and formally nominates remainder of cabinet (Council of State) as recommend by PM.
Council of State PM and ministers for different departments of central government along with ex-officio member, Chancellor of Justice, make up Council of State. Ministers are not obligated to be members of Eduskunta (parliament) and are not required to be formally associated with any political party. After hearing parliament, president appoints PM for parliament to approve in a vote; PM selects remainder of cabinet, formally nominated by president.
Responsibility in the European Union There is currently a continuing debate in Finland whether president or PM is chief envoy of Finland in the EU; 2000 rewriting of the constitution did not address this issue. Implicitly, it puts EU issues under domestic policy and consequently in PM‟s domain. Simultaneously, communication with other state leaders makes up directing foreign policy, which is president‟s duty. Recently, a modification has been made to constitution to separate liability for EU military operations, unambiguously national security and foreign policy issues. Nonetheless, a full separation has not been fulfilled. It is also debated if President Tarja Halonen represented Finland only or the whole EU when she met President of Russia Vladimir Putin.
Parliament Parliament of Finland is 200-member unicameral parliament called the Eduskunta in Finnish and Riksdag in Swedish; it is the highest legislative power in Finland. It may amend the constitution, bring about Council of State‟s resignation, and overrule presidential vetoes. Its acts cannot be placed under the judicial review‟s authority. Council of State or one of the Eduskunta members, who are elected to four- year term on base of proportional representation by open list multi-member regions, can propose or initiate legislation. Individuals age 18 and above, with exception of military recruits on active duty and a few senior judicial executives, are entitled to election. Normal parliamentary term is four years, but president may dissolve the Eduskunta and call new or early elections at PM‟s appeal for election and after asking speaker of parliament.
Parliament – cont. Since equal and common suffrage began in 1906, parliament has been ruled by National Coalition Party, Centre Party (ex-Agrarian Union), and Social Democratic Party. None of these parties has had single-party majority, with one prominent exception, 1916 parliamentary election in which Social Democratic Party won 103 of 200 seats. After 1944, Communist Party of Finland was an issue to consider for a few decades; Finnish People‟s Democratic League, founded by Communists and other groups left of Social Democratic Party, was biggest party after 1958 parliamentary election. In the early 1980s, endorsement for Communist Party of Finland plummeted sharply; later on that same decade, environmentalists founded Green League, now medium-sized party. Swedish People‟s Party represents Finland‟s Swedish minority, particularly in language politics. Parties‟ relative strengths change only slimly in elections because of proportional election from multi-member regions, though there are some noticeable long-term trends.
Parliament of Finland
Registered political parties National Coalition Party (Kansallinen Kokoomus; Samlingspartiet, Kok.) Christian Democrats of Finland (Suomen Kristillisdemokraatit; Kristdemokraterna i Finland, KD) True Finns (Perussuomalaiset; Sannfinländarna, PS) Centre Party (Suomen Keskusta; Centern i Finland, Kesk.) Swedish People‟s Party of Finland (Suomen ruotsalainen kansanpuolue; Svenska folkpartiet i Finland, RKP) Social Democratic Party of Finland (Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue; Finlands Socialdemokratiska Parti, SDP) Left Alliance (Vasemmistoliitto; Vänsterförbundet, Vas.) Green League (Vihreä liitto; Gröna förbundet, Vihr.)
Extra parliamentary parties For the Poor (Köyhien Asialla; För de fattigas väl, Koch.) Independence Party (Itsenäisyyspuolue; Självständighetspartiet, IPU) Workers‟ Party of Finland (Suomen työväenpuolue; Finlands Arbetarparti, STP) Pirate Party (Piraattipuolue; Piratpartiet, PP) Change 2011 (Muutos 2011; Förändring 2011, M11) Freedom Party (Vapauspuolue (VP) – Suomen tulevaisuus; Frihetspartiet, VP) Communist Party of Finland (Suomen kommunistinen puolue; Finlands kommunistiska parti, SKP)
Sauli Niinistö Born 24 August 1948 in Salo. 12th and current President of Finland; took office 1 March 2012, making him first National Coalition Party president since Juho Kusti Paasikivi, who left office in 1996. Lawyer by instruction; was Minister of Finance from 1996-2003 and nominee for National Coalition Party in 2006 presidential election. Also served as Speaker of Parliament of Finland from 2007- 2011; current Honorary President of European People‟s Party (EPP) since 2002. Was National Coalition Party nominee in 2012 presidential election and defeated Green League challenger Pekka Haavisto with 62.6% of the vote in crucial second round.
Jyrki Katainen Born 14 October 1971 in Siilinjärvi. Current PM of Finland; took office 22 June 2011. Also current chairman of National Coalition Party. Grew up in Siilinjärvi and was a part-time instructor, becoming member of the Siilinjärvi municipal council in 1993. Was elected as member of Finnish Parliament (Eduskunta) from region of Northern Savonia in 1999; served as vice-chairman of his party from 2001 and subsequently became its leader in 2004. Was also elected VP of European People‟s Party (EPP) for three-year term in March 2003. Led National Coalition to second place from Social Democrats in 2007 parliamentary election, and became Finance Minister and Deputy PM in new cabinet of National Coalition, Center, Greens, and Swedish People‟s Party. Was named as Europe‟s best finance minister by Financial Times in November 2008. Warned in 2009 that European leaders must do more to arrange their voters for “exit strategies” that take open divisions back under control, stressing that “It is always politically difficult but we simply have no choice. We will have to do very painful things in forthcoming years when the economy has started to recover.”
Eero Heinäluoma Born 4 July 1955 in Kokkola. Current Speaker of Parliament of Finland since 23 June 2011. Ex-chairman of Social Democratic Party of Finland; was replaced in that party‟s leadership by Jutta Urpilainen in June 2008, after having been elected in June 2005, during which he succeeded ex-PM Paavo Lipponen. Also served as Minister of Finance of Finland between 23 September 2005 and 19 April 2007. Had a number of positions in Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) from 1983-2003. Was one of the directors in SAK from 2000-2003; was nominated party secretary in 2002 and in 2003 parliamentary election, and was elected as MP from electoral constituency of Uusimaa. Was designated Paavo Lipponen‟s successor when he was party secretary. Won on first ballot with 201 out of 350 votes; his challengers were Erkki Tuomioja (138 votes) and Minister of Education Tuula Haatainen (11 votes). Ordered rearrange of SDP cabinet members, as party leader. SDP suffered a huge loss in 2007 parliamentary election and lost 15% of their parliament seats, worst result since 1962; this loss led to his subsequent resignation as party leader. Was elected as Social Democratic parliamentary group leader in February 2010, serving in that post until he became parliament speaker. Has majored in political sciences, but has not completed his degree.
National Coalition Party Liberal conservative political party. Founded in 1918. One of Finland‟s four biggest parties, alongside Social Democratic Party, Finns Party, and Centre Party. Models its politics on “individual freedom and responsibility, equality, Western democracy and economic system, humane principles and caring.” Is strongly pro-European and member of European People‟s Party (EPP). Its vote split has been almost 20% in 1990s and 2000s parliamentary elections. Won 44/200 seats in 2011 parliamentary election, making it Finnish parliament‟s biggest party for the first time in its existence. Became most popular party in 2008 and also in 2012, in terms of community level.
Social Democratic Party ofFinland One of four main political parties in Finland, together with National Coalition Party, Finns Party, and Centre Party. Its current leader is Jutta Urpilainen, highest-level SDP minister and finance minister. Has been represented in Finnish cabinet for long periods and contributed to many of the Finnish state‟s original policies. Is currently present in PM Jyrki Katainen‟s current cabinet. The party‟s goals are to accomplish social democratic objectives, i.e., a society where “freedom, equality, solidarity and co-operation thrives in a peaceful and clean environment.” Has close ties with Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), and is member of Socialist International and Party of European Socialists. Had 40% of vote in early 20th century, but following Finnish Civil War of 1918, Communists left the party to found Communist Party of Finland; afterwards, SDP has usually had 20-29% of all votes in those elections where Communists or their fronts have been permitted to participate. Has approximately 59,000 affiliates. Three SDP nominees have been elected Finland‟s president: Mauno Koivisto in 1982 and 1988, Martti Ahtisaari in 1994, and Tarja Halonen in 2000 and 2006, a continuous 30-year period of socialist presidents that was halted with Sauli Niinistö‟s election in March 2012. Acquired 21.4 percent of vote and lost eight seats in 2007 parliamentary election; continued its decline with biggest drop since 1960. In most recent parliamentary election (2011), it won 19.1 percent of the vote and lost an additional three seats; it obtained only 42 seats, its worst result in the Finnish parliament‟s history. Although the word sosiaali in modern Finnish has long a, the name of the party, for historical reasons, is spelt in a traditional way with short a.
True Finns (Finns Party) Populist and nationalist political party; founded in 1995 after Finnish Rural Party was dissolved. Timo Soini has been the party‟s leader since 1997. Received 19.1% of vote in 2011 parliamentary election, becoming third biggest party in Finland‟s parliament; it is currently parliament‟s key opposition party. Merges left-wing economic policies with conservative common standards, socio-cultural authoritarianism, and ethnic nationalism. Finnish examiners have typically regarded the party fiscally centre-left, socially conservative, a “centre- based populist party” or “most left-wing of the non- socialist parties”, while some foreign academics have portrayed them as radically right-wing populist. Its MPs have always been seated in the middle in parliament seating classification; party‟s devotees have also depicted themselves as centrists. Has attracted individuals from left-wing parties, but fundamental characteristics of their manifesto have also attracted support from right-wing voters. Has been compared by worldwide media to other Nordic populist parties and other related nationalist and right-wing movements in Europe sharing euroscepticism and are critical of globalism, whilst taking note of its strong endorsement for Finnish welfare state.
Centre Party Centrist, agrarian, and liberal political party. One of Finland‟s four largest parties, jointly with National Coalition Party, Social Democratic Party and The Finns Party (True Finns); currently has 35 seats in Parliament of Finland. Its chairman is Juha Sipilä, who was elected in June 2012 to succeed ex-PM of Finland Mari Kiviniemi. Founded in 1906 as Agrarian League; symbolized rural neighborhoods and backed decentralisation of Helsinkis political power. Rose as principal challengers to Social Democratic Party in 1920s, and its first PM, Kyösti Kallio, served in the office four times between 1922 and 1937. Emerged as one of four main political parties in Finland after Second World War. Urho Kekkonen served as President of Finland from 1956-1982, lengthiest term served by any president. The name „Centre Party‟ was taken in 1965 and „Centre of Finland‟ in 1988. Was parliament‟s biggest party from 2003-2011, when Matti Vanhanen was PM for seven years; was diminished in parliamentary representation from biggest party to fourth biggest. Its political influence is biggest in small and rural boroughs, where it regularly has majority of seats in urban commissions. Is most distinguishing with decentralisation policy. Has been Finland‟s governing party numerous times since independence in 1917. 12 PMs and three Presidents of Finland, and current European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs have been associates of the party. Mother organization of Finnish Centre Youth, Finnish Centre Students, and Finnish Centre Women.
Support for parties in 2007 and 2011parliamentary elections