Universal suffrage for national elections was
Finland in 1906, and it was extended to local elections in
With the exception of some minor reforms, the original
proportional representation system remains unchanged. This
enjoys full public support, for although it favors larger
slightly, proportional representation allows political
participation of small, and even marginal, groups as well.
All Finns over the age of eighteen by the year of an
are eligible to vote. Voting is not compulsory, and, in
1980s, participation averaged around 80 percent, slightly
the average rate of the Nordic countries.
In the 1980s, the country was divided for national
into fifteen electoral constituencies, fourteen of which
between seven and twenty-seven representatives to the
according to their population. The constituency for the
Islands sent one. Constituencies corresponded to provinces
that Hame Province and Turku ja Pori Province were each
into two, and Helsinki formed one electoral district
five southernmost constituencies supplied nearly half of
Eduskunta's delegates. In the early 1980s, one delegate
represented about 24,000 Finns.
Candidates for the Eduskunta are almost invariably
by a political party, although a 1975 amendment to the
law allows the candidacy of a person sponsored by a
100 Finns united in an electoral association. Party lists
constituency contain at least fourteen names--and more for
constituencies with high populations. Since 1978 a secret
among party members has been required if a party has more
candidates than places on its party list. Parties may form
electoral alliances with other parties to present their
candidates, and they often do so because of lack of
This practice partly explains the high number of small
successfully active in Finnish politics.
Since the introduction of proportional representation
1906, Finland has used the d'Hondt constituency list
only slight modifications. Under this system, elections
on proportionality rather than on plurality, and seats are
allotted to parties commensurately with the number of
polled. Votes go to individual candidates, however, and
indicate their preferred politician by circling the number
assigned to him or to her on their ballots.
The Finnish system is distributive in several ways.
no electoral threshold, such as the Swedish requirement
party receive at least 4 percent of the votes in order to
parliament. In Finland it was feared that a threshold
might deprive the Swedish-speaking minority of seats in
Eduskunta. The Finnish system also favors parties with a
pronounced support in certain areas, rather than those
thin nationwide presence. Parties are not obliged to
Eduskunta elections in every constituency. The practice of
for an individual candidate rather than for a party means
voters can register their dissatisfaction with a party's
or leadership by voting for one of its junior candidates.
characteristic of the Finnish system means that no
matter how senior or renowned, is assured election.
Elections for the 200-seat Eduskunta are held every
years in March, except when the president has dissolved
and has called for an early election. Municipal elections
place every four years in October.
The presidential election occurs every six years in the
of January. Beginning with the 1988 election, it is to be
out on the basis of direct universal suffrage. If none of
candidates receives more than half of the votes, 301
chosen in the same election, choose the next head of
Although pledged in the campaign to particular
candidates, members of the electoral college have the
vote in the body's secret ballots for any candidate who
at least one elector. If no candidate secures a majority
college in the first two ballots, one of the two
has received the most support on the second ballot will be
elected president in the third and final vote. By the late
there was serious discussion of doing away with the
college completely and making the president's election
on a direct vote with no majority required.
Data as of December 1988