Finland is a parliamentary democracy with a multiparty political system and a president as the head of state. Finland declared itself independent of the Russian Empire on 6 December 1917. Since independence, Finland has lived with her Western democracy intact, through the Second World War and the Cold War, and has become a member of the European Union.
Power in Finland is vested in the people, who are represented by the parliament.
At the local level, Finland is divided into municipalities which elect local councils. Every citizen who has reached the age of 18 by Election Day has a right to vote and to stand for election. Everyone who is entitled to vote is automatically entered in the electoral register.
The head of state is the President of the Republic who is elected for a period of six years. The new constitution, adopted in 2000 and further adjusted 2012, moved the political system in a more parliamentary direction, by increasing the amount of power that the parliament and the government wield.
The new constitution strengthened the position of the prime minister and reduced the president’s power. The president still conducts Finland’s foreign policy together with the government, is in charge of relations with other states, and participates in international organisations and negotiations. The president is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces.
After gaining independence, there have been 12 presidents of Finland. Since 1994 the president has been chosen by direct popular vote. If no candidate wins an overall majority in the first round of voting, there is a run-off between the two leading candidates. The maximum number of terms that can be served is two.
In 2000, Finns elected their first female president, Tarja Halonen, who was re-elected in 2006. The newly elected president is Sauli Niinistö.
The Parliament (eduskunta in Finnish) has 200 members elected every four years. The last election was held in 2011. The Finnish Parliament is unicameral.
Parliament enacts Finnish law, approves the state budget, ratiﬁes international treaties and oversees the government. Parliament is also responsible for choosing the prime minister and approving the government programme. The government programme is a plan of action agreed by the parties participating in the government and it sets out the main tasks facing the incoming administration.
Finland has a multiparty system. One feature of the multiparty policy is that no single party is likely to win an absolute majority in parliamentary elections, so the country invariably has a coalition government that enjoys the confidence of parliament. Usually the leader of the party with most seats in the parliament becomes the prime minister.
In recent decades, the three biggest parties in parliament have consistently been the moderate conservative National Coalition Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Centre Party. In the parliamentary elections of 2011 a party called True Finns received a significant amount of votes.
The government consists of the prime minister and the necessary number of ministers.
The prime minister is elected by parliament.
After elections, based on parliament election results, parties engage in government negotiations. The government is officially appointed by the president.
The government is to be understood, on the one hand, as the body which convenes for the general governing of the country, and on the other hand, the decision-making body for governmental and administrative matters.
The prime minister directs the activities of the government and oversees the preparation and consideration of matters that come within the mandate of the government. The prime minister chairs the plenary sessions of the government.
The government must enjoy the confidence of parliament.
The current prime minister is Mr. Jyrki Katainen, leader of the National Coalition Party.
There are 12 ministries in Finland. Each ministry is responsible for the preparation of issues that fall within the scope of the government.