Finnish parliamentary election, 2003

Finnish parliamentary election, 2003

The 2003 Finnish parliamentary election was held on Sunday, 16 March 2003, with the aim of determining the composition of the Finnish parliament, or "Eduskunta", for the parliamentary period between 2003 and 2007. The largest winner of this election was the Centre Party ("Keskusta") led by Anneli Jäätteenmäki, which overtook the Social Democratic Party of Finland (SDP), becoming the largest party in the "Eduskunta".

The election was held under the d'Hondt method of party-list proportional representation, where the electorate voted directly for the individual candidate, but each vote also benefitted the candidate's party. This, once again, provoked some criticism from voters who felt their votes helped candidates they would not have liked to see in power, due to differences between candidates of the same party. Still, Finland has employed the same party-oriented method since the very beginning of the country's parliamentary history — in its current form since the 1950s — and as the large majority of people are satisfied with the current system, it is unlikely to be changed in any way.

The parliament elected in 2003 sat until the parliamentary election of 2007.


For the purposes of parliamentary elections, Finland has been divided into fifteen constituencies. The boundaries of these constituencies correspond to those of administrative regions (in some cases several regions have been grouped into a single constituency), with the exception that the city of Helsinki serves as its own constituency, instead of being part of the Uusimaa region in this case. Each constituency elects a preset number of representatives to the "Eduskunta", according to their population. The exact number of representatives each constituency elects may vary between elections, as their percentage of Finland's population varies, but the total number of elected representatives is always 200, of which 199 are from mainland. The autonomous region of Åland has been given a special status in that it will always have exactly one representative even if its population was not large enough (however during recent times, for example in 2003 elections, the population of Åland has in fact accounted almost exactly for 0.5% of total Finnish population, which would give it the one seat even without the special status).

Numbers of representatives per constituency, 2003-2007

The numbers of MPs per constituency ("see Parliamentary constituencies of Finland") in the 2003 parliamentary elections were as follows:
* Helsinki: 21
* Uusimaa: 33
* Finland Proper: 17
* Satakunta: 9
* Tavastia: 14
* Pirkanmaa: 18
* Kymi: 12
* Southern Savonia: 6
* Northern Savonia: 10
* North Karelia: 7
* Vaasa: 17
* Central Finland: 10
* Oulu: 18
* Lapland: 7
* Åland: 1

Candidates and voting

Candidates for the parliamentary election were allowed to be set by political parties and electoral associations. Any Finnish citizen over the age of 18 was eligible for candidacy, apart from incapacitated persons and professional soldiers. Each party or electoral union was allowed to set a maximum of 14 candidates per constituency, or, in the case the constituency elected more than 14 members of parliament, an amount equal to that of the representatives elected.

Each Finnish citizen aged 18 or over on the election day had the right to vote in the election, no matter where they lived. The electorate consisted of a total of 4,220,951 people, 4,015,552 of whom were resident in Finland and 205,399 abroad.

Election results


The Centre Party was a clear winner, as it gained the most new seats and became the largest party. This is credited mainly to Jäätteenmäki's powerful leadership and modernization of the party still often viewed as agrarian and conservative by many. However, the leading party of the former government, Social Democrats, also actually won some seats and increased its share of the vote, losing in the amount of total popular votes only by few thousands. This was especially interesting when compared to the results of previous elections in 1999, where SDP had managed to stay as the largest party, even though it lost 12 seats that time, while Centre gained a few. In 1999, SDP led by Paavo Lipponen had formed the government, but in 2003 Lipponen had to step aside when Centre Party began the negotiations for new government. This is thought to have caused embitterment within SDP, particularly Lipponen and his supporters.

Apart from two main parties, the results weren't particularly ground-breaking. The National Coalition suffered a defeat, though not a huge one. Nonetheless it considered the results as a clear disapproval. The Green League achieved its best results ever, but the Swedish People's Party lost significantly. The Christian Democrats were a peculiar case this time, as they gained more votes but at the same time lost seats. This was partly because in 1999 and before Christian Democrats had been in an election coalition with Centre Party and benefited from this, while the Centre had actually lost seats due to this arrangement, and thus discontinued it starting from 2003 (the Finnish adaptation of d'Hondt method allows pre-election "coalitions" or "cartels" between two or more parties). The Left Alliance continued its slow decline, while the small populist faction, True Finns, did not do as well as some had expected.

Council of State

The Council of State, or the Finnish cabinet, was formed after the parliamentary election by the Centre Party, with its leader Anneli Jäätteenmäki as Prime Minister. A coalition government was formed, composing of the two largest parties of the "Eduskunta", the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the Centre Party, and a minor coalition partner, the Swedish People's Party, who has a history of being a partner in government since 1976. The new cabinet had eight ministers from both the SDP and the Centre Party, and two ministers from the Swedish People's Party.

However, this proved to be one of the shortest-lived cabinets in Finnish history, lasting only 69 days, after the Iraqgate scandal led to the government falling on 24 June 2003. A new cabinet was formed by the Centre Party's Matti Vanhanen, with largely the same composition as the previous cabinet.

Further reading

* cite journal
quotes =
last = Arter
first = David
authorlink =
coauthors =
date =
year = 2003
month = July
title = From the 'rainbow coalition' back down to 'red earth'? the 2003 finnish general election
journal = West European Politics
volume = 26
issue = 3
pages = 153–162
issn =
pmid =
doi =
id =
url =
language =
format =
accessdate =
laysummary =
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External links

* [ Parliamentary Elections] at the Finnish Ministry of Justice's website.


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