Finland

5,387,000
Helsinki
Europe
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Originally a part of the Kingdom of Sweden, Finland was ceded to the Russian Empire in 1809. With the turmoil in Russia in 1917 the Finns took the opportunity to declare independence from Russia.

Subsequently there was a war between the Red Guards and the White Guards, with the anti-socialist White Guards prevailing. This was followed by a movement to introduce a monarchy. That too was defeated and the Republic of Finland was declared in 1919 with Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg becoming the first President.

Pre World War II relations were never good with the Russians and during the war the Finns fought two wars against the Soviet union, the latter with the support of the Germans. After the war Finland was forced to cede Karelia to the USSR and was made to make reparations.

The effect of the reparations was to move Finland from a largely agrarian based economy to a modern industrialised nation which is one of the richest in the world.

Throughout the First and Second World wars and the periods in between Finland continued to function as a parliamentary democracy with regular elections. This can clearly be seen in the age and history of the political parties of Finland whose roots go back to the late 1800s.

One party which has been successful throughout this period started off life as the Agrarian Party in 1906. Today they are known as the Centre Party (Kesk) and remain one of the major parties in Finland.

Two other national parties, the National Coalition Party also called Kokoomus (NCP or KOK) which was founded in 1918 and the Social Democratic Party of Finland (SDP) which was founded in 1899 also have long and distinguished records of service and have governed during various periods.

Of the 70 governments up to 2011, 53 have included the Agrarian/Centre party. It was an Agrarian/Centre party leader, Urho Kekkonen, who was elected President in 1956 and completed four consecutive terms before standing down in 1981 due to ill health.

In March 1992 Finland applied to join the European Union (EU) and formally joined on 1st January 1995, electing 16 members of the European Parliament.

In 2000 a new constitution came into effect which reduced the executive powers of the President and increased the executive role of the prime minister and government.

At the time of the change of Constitution the Social Democrats were leading the coalition government but in 2003 the Centre Party was back in power led by Anneli Jäätteenmäki. Jäätteenmäki lasted two months in the job before being forced to resign after being accused of lying to Parliament. During her short tenure Finland was the only country in the world to have a female Prime Minister and female President, Tarja Halonen.

Matti Vanhanen became the new leader of the Centre Party and Prime Minister and led his party to a narrow victory in the 2007 general election. The Centre Party won 51 of the 200 seats in the Parliament or Eduskunta whilst the NCP took 50 seats with the Social Democrats on 45 seats. By 2008 Vanhanen was embroiled in a funding scandal which badly damaged his party; he resigned in 2010 and Mari Kiviniemi became the new Prime Minister.

Still scarred by the corruption allegations the Centre Party dropped 16 seats to take just 35 seats in the 2011 general election. For the first time the NCP emerged as the largest party with 45 seats and their leader, Jyrki Katainen, was called upon to form a government.

Although they had won just five seats in the 2007 election, in the 2011 election a Eurosceptic and nationalist party, the True Finns (now called the Finns Party – PS) won 39 seats. They refused to join a coalition and so Katainen formed a six party coalition government leaving the True Finns and Centre Party in opposition.

In April 2014 Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen announced that he would stand down and in September he was replaced by Alexander Stubb. By this time the Left Alliance and Greens had left the coalition leaving the government with a narrow majority of two seats.

Although the NCP had promised much in 2011 the voters of Finland were left disappointed, possibly because of the problems of keeping such a disparate six party coalition together. Nevertheless the voters were not in a magnanimous mood and in the April 2015 general election the Centre Party emerged triumphant once more with their new leader, Juha Sipilä. The NCP came in as the third largest party with 37 seats.

Sipilä took some time to form a new coalition government but eventually he announced that the Centre Party would be joined by the NCP with Stubb as Finance Minister and the Finns Party, with their leader Timo Soini as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. The new government holds 124 of the 200 seats in parliament.

The President is elected by popular vote for a six-year term and may serve a second term.

The Parliament or Eduskunta/Riksdag is a unicameral body with 200 members elected for four years by proportional representation in multi-member constituencies.

The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Finland in 3rd place out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 89 (where 100 is least corrupt).