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Finland

 
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Finland

Smaller Parties and the Greens

In addition to the four large parties discussed above, which among them enjoyed the support of about 80 percent of Finland's voters, and the SFP, which despite its small size had an almost permanent place in coalition governments, there were several other political parties that had a role in governing the country. One, the LKP, was a vestige of its former self; others, such as the Greens or the SMP were responses to trends seen elsewhere in recent decades in Western Europe.

The LKP is directly descended from the Young Finn Party, which after independence took the name National Progressive Party (Kansallinen Edistyspuolue--ED) and played a major role in Finland during the interwar period (see The Era of Russification , ch. 1). After World War II, this party declined in strength and was dissolved in 1951. Liberals subsequently formed two other parties that joined together in 1965 under the present name. Liberals in one party organization or another continued to participate in most governments until 1979. These liberals were proponents of business interests and the protection of private property, but they spoke also of the need for government planning and for social welfare programs. The LKP has steadily lost support to the other nonsocialist parties, however. In the 1983 and the 1987 national elections, it failed to win any seats in the Eduskunta, and in the local elections of 1988 it lost more than a quarter of its representatives on municipal councils. In the late 1980s, the future of this once-important party was uncertain at best.

The SMP was founded in 1959 by the prominent and charismatic Kesk politician, Veikko Vennamo, who broke with Kekkonen for both political and personal reasons. The party, viewed for most of its life as rightist, has always campaigned as a protest party fighting for the interests of the "forgotten man," neglected or ignored by larger parties. This populist party first found support among small farmers, but it later received votes also from city dwellers who were keenly dissatisfied with mainstream politics. The SMP's support fluctuated wildly from election to election, and no safe estimate about its future was possible in the late 1980s. This was especially the case after its inclusion in governing coalitions. After considerable success in the 1983 election, it got two ministerial posts. It therefore competed in the 1987 election as a governing party, and it lost nearly half its seats in parliament. Equally bad results were obtained in the 1988 local elections. In addition, although led in recent years by the founder's son, Pekka Vennamo, the party was torn by dissension. With a single post in the government, even after the disastrous 1987 results, the SMP was in danger of losing its character as a protest party, the role which had brought it voter support.

The Finnish Christian League (Suomen Kristillinen Liitto-- SKL) was founded in 1958 to bring Christian ideals into politics and to curb secularist trends. Its members generally belonged to the state church, yet they did not claim to act in its behalf but for Christian values in general. The party's support has fluctuated since it won its first seat in the Eduskunta in 1970. The SKL has never had a ministerial post, even in 1979 when it won ten parliamentary seats. Its share of votes declined sharply in the next national election, but rose again in 1987, and observers believed that a reliable base of support remained that was likely to ensure its continued existence.

An environmentalist group, the Greens was not an officially registered party during the first years of its existence, and it therefore received no government support for the 1983 and the 1987 national elections. It was organized in the early 1980s as an electoral association to work on a variety of quality-of-life issues and to contest elections on both the local and the national level. In 1983 the group won two seats in the Eduskunta, the first time an electoral association had managed such a feat. In the 1984 local elections, they doubled their support, and in the 1987 election they won four parliamentary seats.

The group's membership was heterogeneous with regard to both origins and aims. Activists were drawn from academia, the middle class, and the disabled, as well as from feminist and bohemian circles. This diversity was reflected in the multitude of members' goals, ranging from modest reforms to a utopian shutdown of industry and a return to subsistence farming. In mid-1988 part of the movement split off and formed a registered political party, the Green League (Vihrea Liitto). The Greens as a whole suffered a slight setback in the 1988 local elections. Given its internal dissension, the role the environmentalist movement was to play in governing Finland was likely to remain small.

Data as of December 1988

Finland - TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • Government and Politics

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