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President of Finland

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The President of Finland (Suomen Tasavallan Presidentti; Republiken Finlands President) is the Head of State of Finland. The President of the Republic is elected directly by the people for a term of six years. Since 1994, no president may be elected for more than two terms. Under the constitution, the President must be a native-born Finnish citizen. The office was established by the Constitution Act of 1919. The current office-holder is President Tarja Halonen.

Contents

Election

Candidates for President can be nominated by registered parties which have received at least one seat in the preceding parliamentary election. A candidate may also be nominated by 20,000 enfranchised citizens. Between 1919 and 1988, the President was elected indirectly by an electoral college made up of electors chosen by voters in the presidential election. In the 1988 presidential election, a direct and an indirect election were conducted in parallel: if no candidate would gain majority, the president was elected by an electoral college formed in the same elections. Since 1994, the president has been elected by a direct popular vote.

If only one candidate is nominated, he or she becomes President without an election. Otherwise, the first round of balloting takes place on the third Sunday of January in the election year. The elections are two-staged. If one of the candidates receives more than half of the votes cast, he or she is elected President. If no candidate wins the majority in the first stage, the top two candidates rerun in the second stage three weeks later. The candidate who then receives most votes is elected. In the event of a tie, the election is resolved by lot. The Council of State confirms the outcome of the election and, if necessary, conducts the drawing of lots.

There have been several exceptional presidential elections. The first President, Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg, was chosen by the Parliament due to the transition rule of the constitution. In 1940 and 1943, the 1937 electoral college chose the President, as it was felt that a popular election could not be arranged due to the Continuation War. In 1944 special legislation directly stipulated that Marshal Mannerheim be elected President for six years after Risto Ryti had resigned mid-term. In 1946, special legislation empowered the Parliament to choose a successor for the remainder of Mannerheim’s term (until 1950), the latter having resigned. Parliament then chose Prime Minister Juho Kusti Paasikivi as President. In 1973, special legislation extended President Urho Kekkonen’s term by four years until 1978.

Inauguration

The President-elect, accompanied by the Speaker of the Parliament and the outgoing President, assumes office on the first day of the month following the election by making the following solemn affirmation in both Finnish and Swedish at a ceremony in Parliament House:

"I, N.N., whom the people of Finland have elected President of the Republic of Finland, affirm that in the execution of my office as President I shall sincerely and faithfully observe the Constitution and laws of the Republic and to the best of my ability promote the success of the Finnish people."

The term of the President-elect begins and that of their predecessor ends at the moment the solemn affirmation has been made (about 12:20 on the day of the inauguration). After the inauguration, the new President, accompanied by his or her predecessor, inspects the Guard of Honour outside Parliament House.

Duties

The President’s functions and powers are directly defined in the Constitution. In addition to those specified there, the President also discharges functions assigned to him or her in other laws. Under the Constitution of Finland, executive power is vested in the President and the Council of State, which must enjoy the confidence of Parliament. This principle is reflected in other provisions of the Constitution concerning the President’s functions and powers dealing with legislation, decrees, and appointment of public officials.

  • Ordering premature parliamentary elections: Upon the proposal of the Prime Minister, the President may, having consulted the parliamentary groups and while Parliament is in session, order the holding of premature parliamentary election. The new Parliament is chosen for a normal four-year term. Parliament itself may decide when to end its session before the election day. From 1919 to 1991 the President’s power to order a premature election was unqualified and he could do so when he considered it necessary. Presidents have ordered premature parliamentary elections on seven occasions. The President declares each Annual Session of Parliament open and closes the last Annual Session. This is done in a speech at each opening and closing ceremony.
  • Appointing and discharging ministers: The Prime Minister and other members of the government are appointed and discharged by the President. After parliamentary elections or in any other situation where the Government has resigned, the President, taking into account the result of consultations between the parliamentary groups and having heard the view of the Speaker, submits to Parliament his or her nominee for Prime Minister. If confirmed by Parliament with a majority of the votes cast, the President then proceeds to appoint the Prime Minister and other ministers designated by him or her. The President is constitutionally required to dismiss a Government or any minister as soon as they have lost the confidence of Parliament. The President also appoints the Governor and other Members of the Board of the Bank of Finland, Provincial Governors, the Chancellor of Justice, the Prosecutor-General, and officers of the Finnish Defence Forces.
  • International relations: The President conducts Finland’s foreign policy in co-operation with the Government. The provisions of treaties and other international obligations that affect domestic legislation are implemented by acts of Parliament. Otherwise, international obligations are implemented by a Presidential decree. Decisions on war and peace are taken by the President with the assent of Parliament.
  • Legislation: The President must sign and approve all acts adopted by Parliament before they become law. He or she must decide on ratification within three months of receiving the act and may request an opinion from the Supreme Court or the Supreme Administrative Court before giving assent. Should the President refuse assent or fail to decide on the matter in time, Parliament reconsiders the act and can readopt it with a majority of votes cast. The act will then enter into force without ratification. If Parliament fails to readopt the act, it is deemed to have lapsed.

List of Presidents of Finland

# Name Took Office Left Office Party
1. Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg July 27, 1919 March 1, 1925 National Progressive Party (ED)
2. Lauri Kristian Relander March 1, 1925 March 1, 1931 Agrarian League (ML), later re-named Centre Party (KESK)
3. Pehr Evind Svinhufvud March 1, 1931 March 1, 1937 National Coalition Party (KOK)
4. Kyösti Kallio March 1, 1937 19 December, 1940 Agrarian League (ML)
5. Risto Ryti 19 December, 1940 (acting for Kallio from November 27, 1940 August 4, 1944 National Progressive Party (ED)
6. Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim August 4, 1944 March 8, 1946 Military/Non-Party
7. Juho Kusti Paasikivi March 8, 1946 March 1, 1956 National Coalition Party (KOK)
8. Urho Kekkonen March 1, 1956 January 27, 1982 Agrarian League (ML)/Centre Party (KESK)
9. Mauno Koivisto January 27, 1982 (acting for Kekkonen from September 11, 1981 March 1, 1994 Social Democratic Party (SDP)
10. Martti Ahtisaari March 1, 1994 March 1, 2000 Social Democratic Party (SDP)
11. Tarja Halonen March 1, 2000 Present Social Democratic Party (SDP)

Official Residences

The President has the use of three properties for residential and hospitality purposes: the Presidential Palace and Mäntyniemi, both in Helsinki, and Kultaranta in Naantali on the west coast.

Incapacity and succession

The President of Finland has no vice president. If the President is temporarily prevented from performing his or her duties, the Prime Minister or the Deputy Prime Minister becomes Acting President until the President’s incapacity ceases. If the President dies or if the Government declares that the President is permanently unable to carry out his or her duties, a new President is elected as soon as possible.

History

After Finland's independence and the Civil War in Finland the matter of republic or constitutional monarchy was much debated (see Väinö I of Finland), and the outcome was a compromise: a rather monarchy-like, strong presidency with great powers over Finland's foreign affairs and the appointment of the cabinet and officers of the civil service. The constitution was changed in2000, to redistribute some of this power to the Parliament and the cabinet. The new constitution specifies how the principles of Parliamentarism are to be followed (although Finland's presidents have done so since 1937 nonetheless).

In the first years of Finland's independence Finland had two Regents (or Protectors of State) and an elected King, although the latter renounced the throne:

See also

External links

fr:Liste des présidents de Finlande io:Prezidanto di Finlando pl:Prezydenci Finlandii fi:Suomen presidentti

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