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Semi-Presidentialism in Europe$
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Robert Elgie

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198293866

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198293860.001.0001

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(p.48) 3 Finland
Semi-Presidentialism in Europe

David Arter

Oxford University Press

Since the retirement of President Kekkonen in 1981, a process of piecemeal constitutional reform has strengthened the core concept of parliamentary government at the expense of the old quasi‐monarchical elements in the Finnish political system; this modernization process has been propelled by a concern to avoid the possibility of a recurrence of the ‘enlightened despotism’ of the Kekkonen era, and has been aided by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Recent constitutional changes have also enhanced the involvement of the prime minister and government in the performance of the federative (foreign policy) function; above all, the institutional adaptation required by membership of the EU has emphasized the bicephalous character of the Finnish political executive in a way reminiscent of interwar practice. Political factors, notably the ability of the party system to deliver stable majority coalitions, have worked in the same direction, and indeed arguments have been made in favour of the abolition of the whole institution of the presidency. With parliament having recently accepted the main findings of the Nikula Committee's report and restricted the president's involvement in the process of coalition‐building, as well as vesting the government with powers jointly to manage foreign policy, it is clear that Finland is en route to becoming an orthodox parliamentary democracy: the head of state has lost his exclusive charge of the federative function; his involvement in the legislative process is limited and exceptional; and even his executive powers—particularly his powers of appointment—have been restricted in recent years. The different sections of the chapter are: Constitution‐Making 1917–1919: A Monarchical Republic?; The Shift to a President‐Dominant System, 1940–1987; From President‐Dominant to Pluralist Foreign Policy‐Making, 1987–1998; and Towards a Ceremonial Presidency?

Keywords:   Ceremonial Presidency, constitutional changes, constitutional reform, EU, executive powers, federative function, Finland, Kekkonen, monarchical elements, Monarchical Republic, parliamentary democracy, parliamentary government, party system, Pluralist Foreign Policy‐Making, President, semi‐presidentialism, Soviet Union

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