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Nordic FAQ - 4 of 7 - FINLAND
Section - 4.4 The Finnish parliament, government and political parties

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&ltby Jorma Kyppö, Hiski Haapoja et al>

          + Official governmental information is available in English at
            <http://virtual.finland.fi/nr/noframes_eng.html> (foreign
            ministry press pages).
          + Finland's Constitution and other Laws with constitutional
            status are available in English at
            <http://www.uni-wuerzburg.de/law/fi__indx.html>.
          
  4.4.1 The political parties
          The Centre (Keskusta, abbr. Kesk) was called Agrarian League
          until 1965 and still derives its main support from rural areas
          covering most of Finland. Not nearly all the voters have
          anything to do with farming, but loyalty to the Centre is
          almost a family value in the provinces, particularly the two
          northern ones (Oulu and Lapland). The higher voting percentage
          of the rural areas is an additional asset. The party has a
          strong anti-EU wing, which has close ties with Vapaan Suomen
          Liitto (Union of Free Finland), whose sole issue is to
          terminate the EU membership. Esko Aho has been chairman of the
          Centre since 1990 and Prime Minister since 1991. Other main
          politicians include the controversial Paavo Väyrynen, Seppo
          Kääriäinen, Olli Rehn, Tytti Isohookana-Asunmaa, Anneli
          Jäätteenmäki. The chairman of VSL is the noted troublemaker
          Ilkka Hakalehto.
          The Social Democrats (SDP) are strongest in Southern industrial
          towns, also sharing much of the middle-class and public
          employee vote. Party chairman Paavo Lipponen is the new Prime
          Minister. Other notable names: Arja Alho, Erkki Tuomioja,
          Pertti Paasio, Ulf Sundqvist, Antti Kalliomäki, Lasse Lehtinen,
          Kalevi Sorsa. President Martti Ahtisaari, EU commissioner Erkki
          Liikanen and many trade union figures come from SDP.
          The National Coalition (Kokoomus, abbr. Kok), or Conservatives,
          presents itself as the party of entrepreneurs and patriots,
          winning 90 per cent shares of vote in army bases. Helsinki and
          the other main cities are National Coalition strongholds. While
          most of rural Finland is dominated by the green of the Centre,
          Eastern Häme is blue for some reason. Chairman Sauli Niinistö
          and his minions (Pertti Salolainen, Pekka Kivelä, Ilkka
          Suominen, Harri Holkeri) are currently worried about a new
          rival, Nuorsuomalaiset (Young Finns - the name harks back to
          the days of the Tsar), which appears as a more modern, "cool"
          urban alternative. Risto E. J. Penttilä is the champion of the
          Young Finns, while the image of the National Coalition is
          burdened by the ruthless know-it-all Minister of Finance, Iiro
          Viinanen. Riitta Uosukainen is the first-ever Chairwoman of the
          Parliament.
          The Left-wing Alliance (Vasemmistoliitto, abbr. Vas) is a 1990
          attempt to gather together the quarreling Communist movement.
          Some splits are still visible both inside and outside of the
          party. Much stronger in the North than in the South, the party
          gets most of its votes from industrial workers. The eternal
          struggle with SDP over trade unions goes on and on. The
          chairman is Claes Andersson, psychiatrist and novelist.
          The correct translation of Svenska Folkpartiet is not obvious.
          In this article "Swedish People's Party" is used, however this
          is far from a perfect translation:
          "Folkpartiet" means "People's party" and denotes in Finland
          like in Scandinavia parties of Liberal, non-Socialist,
          character. "Svenska" means that the party intends to represent
          the fraction of Finland's citizens with Swedish mother-tongue.
          This they do quite well as the Swedish speakers are less than
          6% of Finland's population.
          The Swedish People's Party (SFP in Swedish, RKP in Finnish)
          unites the Swedish-speaking minority of the Southern and
          Ostrobothnian coasts, from leftist intellectuals through
          farmers and fishermen to nobility. The language issue gives SFP
          the stablest electorate of any Finnish party. It manages to
          worm its way to most Finnish governments, thus having influence
          far greater than its size. One of the 12 mandates is the
          representative of Åland Islands, Gunnar Jansson, who
          technically is not a member of the party as the islands have a
          political system of their own.
          The Greens first entered the Parliament in 1983. Their main
          concern is the environment (attitudes ranging from moderate to
          fanatical) but many counter-culture youths and citizens' rights
          activists feel home here as well. Paradoxically, the nature
          party thrives mainly in the big cities (the "Neon Greens") as
          well as in the Universities.
          The Christian League (founded in 1958) owes most of its seats
          to skillful electoral alliances which give the party benefit
          from votes originally given to other parties. Many of its faces
          represent Revivalist movements rather than mainstream
          Lutheranism. The chairman is Toimi Kankaanniemi.
          SMP, The Finnish Rural Party, (although changing the meaning of
          the letters is continually proposed) originated in 1959 as a
          rebellious (anti-Kekkonen) fraction of the Agrarian League. The
          party's electoral success has been very variable and despite
          government participation during the 1980s it never achieved, or
          much sought for, respectability, preferring to fish the
          populist vote with anti-refugee statements. The current state
          of SMP is chaotic, but it has happened before and SMP has risen
          like a phoenix from the ashes.
          The Liberal Party lost its only MP, the party's chairwoman
          Tuulikki Ukkola, in the elections. LKP has a history of power
          despite its small size, but is facing extinction and is
          hysterical about the threat of the Young Finns.
          The ultra green Ecological Party got one MP, one of the
          surprises of the elections.
          There are a dozen registered parties outside the Parliament.
          The law states that a party which twice consecutively fails to
          enter the Parliament must be dissolved, but usually they
          re-arrange themselves with the collection of another 5,000
          signatures. Among them are three pensioners' parties (the least
          of them called Party of Shared Responsibility of Pension
          Receivers and Greens), the Women's Party and the Natural Law
          Party which aims to heal the Finnish economy by the means of
          yoga flying. The status of bad old IKL (the main Fascist party,
          banned in 1944) is somewhat unclear at the moment.
          
  4.4.2 The 1995 general elections
          The Finnish parliament is unicameral, elected by citizens over
          18 every fourth March (to commemorate the opening of the
          Estates' Diet by Tsar Alexander I in March 1809). The
          President, with the consent of the Prime Minister, can dissolve
          the Parliament and call for new elections. This last occurred
          in 1975. In the election of March 1995 the 200 seats went as
          follows:


Party                          % of votes      Seats (change from -91)

Social Democrats               28.3            63 (+15)
Centre Party                   19.9            44 (-11)
National Coalition (cons.)     17.9            39 (-1)
Left-wing Alliance (comm.)     11.2            22 (+3)
Greens                          6.5             9 (-1)
Swedish People's Party          5.1            11 (0)
Christian League                3.0             7 (-1)
Young Finns                     2.8             2 (+2)
Rural Party                     1.3             1 (-6)
Ecological Party                0.3             1 (+1)
Åland representative                            1

Voting percentage: 71.8

          Of the new MP's 143 are men and 67 women. The parliament
          elected in 1991 had 77 women out of the total 200 MP's (a world
          record in its time), and as many women's organizations had set
          the goal as 101 women MP's to be elected, the result was
          clearly a disappointment and one of the most surprising
          elements of the elections.
          The Social Democrats got a great victory as a result of their
          being in the opposition in the last government. Centre party,
          the leading party of the previous government, was the greatest
          loser of the elections, probably because the party's split-up
          in the question of EU-membership. The National Coalition, the
          other major party in the government, was among the losers but
          was much less affected by government responsibility than the
          Centre. The gallups lied to the Greens once again and for the
          first time since its formation the party stopped growing. Young
          Finns got their first seats, not as many as they expected but
          it's a start. The Rural Party was one of the biggest losers of
          the elections; a once significant populist party, it has waned
          away almost completely and may soon disappear entirely from the
          Finnish political chart as it is currently in deep economical
          problems. The little known Ecological Party got its sole seat
          because of its candidate Pertti "Veltto" ("Slack") Virtanen, a
          well-known eccentric rock musician and psychologist, who was
          also a candidate in the presidential elections (and did
          surprisingly well).
          As Mrs. Speaker of the Parliament Riitta Uosukainen (Cons.)
          continued.
          
  4.4.3 The rainbow cabinet
          The new cabinet appointed by president Ahtisaari is nicknamed
          "Rainbow cabinet" as it includes 7 Social Democrats, 5
          Conservatives, 2 (ex-)Communists, 2 ethnic Swedes, one Green
          and one independent minister. The only major party left out is
          the Centre, which dominates rural Finland. Cuts in agricultural
          subsidies are expected. The notion of Conservatives and
          Communists in the same cabinet is unheard before, as is the
          presence of the Green (party chairman Pekka Haavisto, who lost
          his seat in the Parliament), as Minister of Environment. 11 men
          and 7 women.
          Prime Minister: Paavo Lipponen (born 1941). The slow-speaking,
          197cm tall chairman of the Social Democratic Party was the
          first Finnish politician to suggest EC membership, at a time
          when it was highly unrealistic and potentially career-damaging
          (anti-Soviet).
          Foreign Minister: Tarja Halonen (SocDem). A surprise choice.
          Red hair and onetime Minister of Justice is all I can remember.
          Unless I'm mistaken, our first female Foreign Minister.
          Minister of the Treasury: Iiro Viinanen (Cons.) The most hated
          member of the former cabinet continues to persecute women,
          children and the trade unions. He has also gained much respect
          among some people, which shows e.g in that he got one of the
          biggest shares of votes in the parliamentary elections of all
          candidates.
          Second Minister of Treasury: Arja Alho, a Social Democrat from
          Helsinki with an independent mind.
          Minister of Trade and Commerce: Antti Kalliomäki, vice-chairman
          of the Social Democratic Party. A gray bore and former athlete.
          Minister of Interior Affairs (such as the Police): Jouni
          Backman (SocDem). A totalitarian character. 2nd minister
          Jan-Erik Enestam (Swedish People's Party), a municipal leader
          from Västanfjärd.
          Minister of Labour: Liisa Jaakonsaari (SocDem, from Oulu).
          Faces a huge task of reducing the record-high unemployment.
          Good luck!
          Minister of Justice: Sauli Niinistö, Chairman of the
          Conservatives. Lost his wife in a car accident earlier this
          year.
          Minister of Defence: Anneli Taina (Cons.) Apparently they
          decided to make this a permanent women's job.
          Minister of Traffic: Tuula Linnainmaa (Cons.) A nobody.
          Minister of Education: the 30-year old Conservative Olli-Pekka
          Heinonen continues.
          Minister of Social and Health Issues: Sinikka Mönkäre (SocDem)
          and Terttu Huttu (Comm.), a newcomer from Suomussalmi.
          Minister of European Affairs: Ole Norrback, the Ostrobothnian
          chairman of the Swedish People's Party and just about our most
          provincial politician.
          Minister of Culture: Claes Andersson, Comm. Chairman, poet,
          jazz pianist, ex-football player, psychiatrist and father of
          six or more. It's not often that we see a Minister of Culture
          who actually understands something about culture.


[ the sections above are available at the www-page
  http://www.lysator.liu.se/nordic/scn/faq44.html ]

          



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