Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Parliament of Finland
When the unicameral Parliament of Finland was established by the Parliament Act in 1906, Finland was an autonomous Grand Duchy under the Russian Tsar, who ruled as constitutional Grand Duke of Finland, rather than as an absolute monarch. The Parliament was preceded by the Diet of Finland, which had succeeded the Riksdag of the Estates in 1809. Finland declared its independence on December 6, 1917 and in the winter of 1918 endured the tragic Finnish Civil War, after which monarchists and republicans struggled over the country's form of government. Finland became a republic in July 1919, but extensive powers were reserved for the President of Finland.
Under the Finnish constitution, sovereignty belongs to the people and that power is vested in the parliament. The minimum age for voting and standing for election is currently 18.
The Parliament House was designed by J. S. Sirén and was completed in 1931. From then on and especially since the Winter War and Continuation War, which were concurrent with World War II, it has been the scene of many key moments in the nation's political life.
The Parliament's 200 Representatives are elected directly by secret ballot on the basis of proportional representation. The electoral period is four years. Elections previously took two days but now are conducted on one day, the third Sunday in March.
Every citizen who is at least 18 years of age and is registered to vote by the election date is entitled to vote in general elections and with certain exceptions, such as military personnel on active duty and high judicial officials, can also stand for Parliament. Candidates are selected by party referendums or electoral organizations.
For the purpose of Parliamentary elections, Finland is divided into 16 electoral districts. The number of Representatives returned by each district depends on the population. Åland is an exception in that it always returns one Representative. The provincial state offices appoint an election board in each electoral district to prepare lists of candidates and to approve the election results. The Ministry of Justice is ultimately responsible for elections.
In each electoral district the total number of votes for each party, electoral alliance or joint list is calculated and the candidate with the most votes in the party, electoral alliance or joint list is assigned this number as a reference figure. The figure for the candidate who comes in second is half the total, the figure for the candidate who comes in next is a third of the total etc. (This is known as the d'Hondt method). The final order of all the candidates in the district is thus determined on the basis of reference figures. Finland does not have a vote threshold, nor does it provide for votes to be given to a party rather than an individual.
The President can call for an early election upon the proposal of the Prime Minister, after consultations with the parliamentary groups while Parliament is in session.
Formation of a Government
The President conducts negotiations regarding the formation of a new Government (Council of State) with the Speaker of the Parliament and then with representatives of the parliamentary groups in order to determine what type of Government base the parliamentary groups consider most viable.
According to the constitution, Parliament elects the Prime Minister, who is appointed to office by the President. Other ministers are appointed by the President on the basis of the Prime Minister’s proposal.
Before the Prime Minister is elected, the parliamentary groups negotiate on the political programme and composition of the Council of State. On the basis of the outcome of these negotiations, and after having consulted the Speaker of the Parliament and the parliamentary groups, the President informs Parliament of the nominee for Prime Minister. The nominee is elected Prime Minister if this is supported by a majority of votes in Parliament.
The annual session of Parliament generally begins in February and consists of two terms, the first from January until June, the second from September to December. At the start of an annual session, the nation’s political leaders and their guests attend a special worship service at Helsinki Cathedral, before the ceremonies continue at Parliament House, where the President formally opens the session.
On the first day of each annual session, Parliament elects a Speaker and two Deputy Speakers from among its members. This election is chaired by the senior member in terms of age. The members who are elected to serve as Speaker and First and Second Deputy Speaker take a solemn oath before Parliament.
Constitutionally, the 200-member unicameral Parliament, 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.
Finland's proportional representation system encourages a multitude of political parties and has resulted in many coalition-cabinets.
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 cabinet was formed by Center and Social Democrats together with the Swedish People's Party.
Major political parties
Main article: Political parties in Finland
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 cabinet. In the 1999 elections it again got 11% of the vote, and remained in cabinet. 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).
Election results 2003
Main article: Elections in Finland
- 55 (Centre Party of Finland) (Keskusta, Centern)
- 53 (Social Democratic Party of Finland) (Sosiaalidemokraattinen Puolue, Socialdemokratiska Partiet)
- 40 (National Coalition Party) (Kokoomus, Samlingspartiet)
- 19 (Left Alliance) (Vasemmistoliitto, Vänsterförbundet)
- 14 (Green League) (Vihreä Liitto, Gröna förbundet)
- 8 (Christian Democrats) (Kristillisdemokraatit, Kristdemokraterna)
- 7 (Swedish People's Party) (Ruotsalainen Kansanpuolue, Svenska Folkpartiet)
- 3 (True Finns) (Perussuomalaiset, Sannfinnarna)
- 1 Åland representative
- Speakers of the Parliament of Finland
- Politics of Finland
- Parliament of Åland
- Government of Finland
- President of Finland
- Prime Minister of Finland
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