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Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland

Political system - Embassy of Finland, Nicosia : About Finland : Political system


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Political system

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.

Finland’s political system

Power in Finland is vested in the people, who are represented by the parliament.

The public is following parliament’s plenary session from the gallery.All parliament’s plenary sessions are open to the public. Photo: Lehtikuva/Vesa Moilanen/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 president is Finland’s head of state

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 currently elected president is Sauli Niinistö.

Finnish Parliament

The Finnish Parliament house and the Parliament annex.The Finnish Parliament house is located in Helsinki. The Parliment annex, on the left side, was built in 2004. The Parliament house is made out of granite, which is Finland’s national mineral. Photo: Pertti Nisonen/Parliament.

The Parliament (eduskunta in Finnish) has 200 members elected every four years. The last election was held in 2015. 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 there used to be three big parties in the parliament, the moderate conservative National Coalition Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Centre Party. Since 2011 the Finns Party has become one of the big parties. After the parliamentary elections in 2015 the party is currently the second biggest after the Centre Party.

Finnish Government

The government consists of the prime minister and the necessary number of ministers.

The president Sauli Niinistö in a meeting with the Finnish government.The President and the goverment meet on a regular basis. The President Sauli Niinistö and Finnish goverment in 2012. Photo: The Office of the President of the Republic of Finland.

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. Juha Sipilä, leader of the Centre Party of Finland.

Finnish ministries

There are 12 ministries in Finland. Each ministry is responsible for the preparation of issues that fall within the scope of the government.

Prime Minister's Office

Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Ministry of Justice

Ministry of the Interior

Ministry of Defence

Ministry of Finance

Ministry of Education and Culture

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry

Ministry of Transport and Communications

Ministry of Employment and the Economy

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health

Ministry of the Environment

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