Published 31st March, 2011
The Centre Party or KESK was founded in 1906 as the Agrarian Union which became the Agrarian League in 1908. It takes its support from small rural towns and describes decentralisation as its main policy.
With Finland’s declaration of independence in 1917 the Agrarians successfully opposed the installation of a monarchy and with the declaration of a republic in 1919 the party took 19.7% of the vote.
From that point until the early 1930s their share of the vote increased to nearly 28% of the vote. They were, nevertheless the second party after the Finnish Social Democratic Party (SDP) with whom they formed a coalition in 1937. The Agrarians continued to share government from 1939 – 1940 and again between 1941 – 1944.
In 1945 the party took 21.4% of the vote and came third in the election. In 1948 they increased their share of the vote to 24.2% and became the largest parliamentary party and maintained this status up to 1954.
The Agrarian Leader Urho Kekkonen was elected President in 1956 and completed four consecutive terms before standing down in 1981 due to ill health.
Of the 69 governments up to 2004, 52 have included the Agrarian/Centre Party and they have provided the Prime Minister 23 times and President on three occasions.
In March 1999 the Centre Party took 22.4% of the vote and 48 seats in the 200 seat parliament, forming the main opposition party to an SDP led coalition.
In 2003 they did better and came first with 24.69% of the vote and 55 seats. Their new leader Anneli Jäättenmäki became the first Finnish Prime Minister, however she only lasted three months being forced to resign over a row relating to the use of secret documents.
In 2007, although their vote dropped to 23.1%, they retained 51 seats and formed a four party coalition with the National Coalition Party, Green League and Swedish people’s Party. Matti Vanhanen became the Prime Minister, but in June 2010 stepped down and the current leader is Mari Kiviniemi.
The Centre Party is a member of Liberal International and the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party.