Browse the listing below to find government information for Finland, including flags, leaders,
and constitution information. Factrover also has complete information on Finland at its
Finland Country Page.
Type: Constitutional republic.
Constitution: July 17, 1919.
Independence: December 6, 1917.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state), prime minister (head of government), Council of State (cabinet).
Legislative--unicameral parliament. Judicial--Supreme Court, regional appellate courts, local courts.
Subdivisions: Six provinces, provincial self-rule for the Aland Islands.
Political parties: Social Democratic Party, Center Party, National Coalition (Conservative) Party, Leftist Alliance, Swedish People's Party, Green Party.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
Finland has a mixed presidential/parliamentary system with executive powers divided between the president, who has primary responsibility for national security and foreign affairs, and the prime minister, who has primary responsibility for all other areas. Constitutional changes made in the late 1980s strengthened the prime minister--who must enjoy the confidence of the parliament (Eduskunta)--at the expense of the president. Finland's 1995 accession to the European Union has blurred the line between foreign and domestic policy; the respective roles of the president and prime minister are evolving, and plans are under consideration to rewrite the Constitution to clarify these and other issues. For instance, the prime minister has now been given responsibility for EU relations.
Finns enjoy individual and political freedoms, and suffrage is universal at 18. The country's population is relatively ethnically homogeneous. Immigration to Finland has significantly increased over the past decade, although the foreign-born population, estimated at only 2% of the total population, is still much lower than in any other EU country. Few tensions exist between the Finnish-speaking majority and the Swedish-speaking minority.
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 president, 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 4 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.
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 pretrial detention has been reduced to 4 days. The Finnish court system consists of local courts, regional appellate courts, and a Supreme Court.
Finland has five provinces and the self-ruled province of the Aland Islands. Below the provincial level, the country is divided into cities, townships, and communes administered by municipal and communal councils elected by proportional representation once every 4 years. At the provincial level, the five mainland provinces are administered by provincial boards composed of civil servants, each headed by a 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 Aland is located near the 60th parallel between Sweden and Finland. It enjoys local autonomy and demilitarized status by virtue of an international convention of 1921, implemented most recently by the Act on Aland 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 Aland's citizens.
Finland's defense forces consist of 35,000 persons in uniform (26,000 army; 5,000 navy; and 4,000 air force); the country's defense budget equals about 1.6% of GDP. There is universal male conscription under which all men serve from six to 12 months. As of 1995, women were permitted to serve as volunteers. A reserve force ensures that Finland can field 400,000 trained military personnel in case of need.
Finland's proportional representation system encourages a multitude of political parties and has resulted in many coalition governments. Political activity by communists was legalized in 1944, and although four major parties have dominated the postwar political arena, none now has a majority position. The Center Party (Keskusta), traditionally representing rural interests, gained a slight plurality in Finland's parliament in the general election of March 2003, narrowly defeating the ruling Social Democratic Party (SDP) by a 24.7% to 24.5% margin. The Center then formed a three-party governing coalition with the SDP and the Swedish People's Party. The Green Party, which had withdrawn from the government in spring 2002 in protest to the government decision to approve building a fifth nuclear reactor, remained in the opposition, as did the National Coalition Party (conservatives). The National Coalition leads the opposition in Parliament. The Left Alliance, a combination of socialists left of the SDP and a number of former communists, maintains representation in Parliament but is not a significant factor in most policy decisions.