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Summary

Finland caps donations received but not money spent in election campaigns. Parties receive government aid, provided they are represented in the Parliament or received 2% of the national vote in the most recent election. All successful candidates for local, parliamentary, and EU Parliament elections, as well as all presidential candidates and political parties, must report their campaign funding. Ethical guidelines control media coverage of elections and legislative mandates ensure the impartiality of public service broadcasters.

I. Background

A. Finnish Parliamentary System

Finland is a parliamentary republic.[1] It has a President, a one-chamber Parliament, and a Prime Minister. The President and Prime Minister share power, although the President has mostly representative duties and foreign affairs responsibilities whereas the Prime Minister appoints his own cabinet and is responsible for the executive branch of government.[2]

Finland is made up of regions (municipalities) and also includes an autonomous island, Åland.[3] Åland has its separate election law, which in principle looks the same as the national law.[4]

Leadership positions are tightly associated with the political parties. Political parties are responsible for their own election ballots, which may contain a list of no more than fourteen candidates for parliamentary elections.[5] Nominations for this list are handled within the political party and need not include a vote by its members if only fourteen persons have been nominated for the list.[6] Candidates for parliamentary and presidential elections must be nominated for candidacy by a political party or a constituency association.[7] Thus, independent candidacy is not permitted. Moreover, a candidate may only serve as a candidate representative for one party or constituency association.[8] If only one presidential candidate is nominated during the nomination period, he or she may become the president without an election.[9]

B. Public Funding of Political Parties

All parties who are represented in Parliament receive “party support” from the national government.[10] This public funding is calculated based on the number of parliamentary seats held by the party.[11] In 2015 around €160,000 (approximately US$174,000) per parliamentary mandate was provided in party support.[12] Of this amount, €85,000 (approximately US$92,000) was used for political activities and €75,000 (approximately US$82,000) for informational materials and communications.[13] In total, €32,000,000 (approximately US$35,000,000) was paid out in party support in 2015.[14]

Starting January 1, 2016, parties who are not represented in the Parliament also receive party support, provided they received 2% of the national vote.[15] The amount received for such parties is one-third of the amount received for one mandate in Parliament.[16] The purpose of allowing smaller, nonparliamentary parties to receive party support is to increase the diversity of the political discourse.[17] In the 2015 parliamentary election, no political party met the 2% threshold.

Finland has revised its campaign financing laws several times over the last decades as a result of having previously been criticized by the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO)[18] for a lack of transparency in its campaign financing laws, and its amended rules have now been approved by the EU Parliament.[19]

Observations by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) during the election in 2011 were mostly positive.[20]

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II. Campaign Financing Generally

Campaign financing is regulated in the Campaign Financing Act.[21] Campaign financing is defined as “financing of costs for a candidate’s election campaign that arise six months prior or at the latest two weeks following an election.”[22] This includes the “candidate’s own funds (and loans); contributions to a candidate, his or her support group, or any other group that works solely with getting the candidate elected; and other contributions.”[23]

Contributions include nonmonetary contributions such as goods and services.[24] Nonmonetary contributions should be recorded in monetary terms.[25] Volunteer work and products that are customarily free are not considered campaign contributions.[26]

Contributions, both to political parties and individuals, must be traceable to the giver.[27] Small, customary cash contributions through informal settings, such as party requests for donations on public streets, are exempt.[28]

Candidates may only accept foreign contributions from “individuals and such international organizations and foundations that represent the candidate’s political ideology.”[29] Similarly, political parties may also only accept contributions from “individuals and such international organizations and foundations that represent the party’s political ideology.”[30]

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III.  Monetary Caps on Donations

Finnish Law stipulates limits on donations to “candidates, candidates’ support groups, and other groups working solely to get the candidate elected.”[31] Such caps do not apply to contributions received from their political party or party-affiliated organizations, provided it does not include contributions from a donor in excess of the pertinent cap.[32]

A. Parties

Political parties may not receive contributions from the same contributor—whether in goods, services, or money—that exceed €30,000 (about US$33,000) per calendar year.[33]

B. Candidates for President

Candidates for President must be able to account for the source of all contributions received; however, there is no monetary cap on contributions.[34]

C. Candidates for Parliament

Candidates for the Finnish Parliament may not receive contributions from the same contributor— whether  in  goods,  services  or   money—that   exceed   €6,000   (approximately  US$6,500) per election.[35] Candidates may, however, still receive funds from their party and party organization that exceed the €6,000 cap, provided it does not include contributions received from an individual donor that exceeds the cap.[36] This has been the typical way of financing a campaign in Finland, i.e., the party pays. For instance, during the 2015 election one member of Parliament got his entire campaign financed, at €60,000, by his party.[37]

In the 2015 Parliamentary elections the largest donors were as follows:

Stiftelsen  för  det  tvåspråkiga  Finland  [Foundation  for  Bilingual  Finland]  €69,500 [approximately US$75,500]

Finlands Socialdemokratiska Parti €67,100 [approximately US$73,000] Svenska Folkpartiet i Finland €64,303 [approximately US$70,000]

Samlingspartiet €60,344 [approximately US$65,500]

Spårproffsen JHL [Union Organization) €49,034 [approximately US$53,000] Arkadian talouspoliittinen seura €44,991 [approximately US$49,000] Samingspartiets Ungdomsförbund €40,259 [approximately US$43,500].[38]

Private individuals also made large campaign contributions.  The largest donor donated €15,000 (approximately US$16,300) to four different candidates.[39]

D. Candidates for the European Parliament

Candidates for the European Parliament may not receive contributions from the same contributor—whether in goods, services or money—that exceed €10,000 (approximately US$10,900).[40]

E. Candidates for Local Leadership

Candidates for local leadership positions (municipal elections) may not receive contributions from the same contributor—whether in goods, services or money—that exceed €3,000 (approximately US$3,300).[41]

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IV. Caps on Spending

There are no monetary upper limits on spending for Finnish candidates.[42] However, it is illegal to buy votes.[43]

In the 2015 parliamentary election, candidates on average spent €38,000 (approximately US$41,300), while a few spent more than €100,000 (approximately US$109,000).[44] Only one Member of Parliament (MP) got his entire campaign financed, at €60,000 (approximately US$65,000),  by  his  party.[45] MP  Carl  Haglund  spent  the  most,  €130,000  (approximately US$141,000), on his campaign.[46]The contributions Haglund received came from his party, organizations, and individuals, as well as €1,000 (approximately US$1,090) of his own money.[47]

EU Parliamentarian Sirpa Pietikäinen holds the record for the most expensive campaign, for spending a total of €184,000 (approximately US$200,000) during her European Parliament campaign in 2014.[48] She reported that the largest contributions came from her own funds and from loans.[49]

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V. Reporting Requirements

The reporting requirements for candidates increased on January 1, 2016.[50] Within two months of an election, successful candidates should report their campaign financing to the National Audit Office of Finland.[51] Such reports are made on a special form.[52]

Not all candidates are required to report contributions received. Rather, only candidates who win need to report contributions.[53] This includes elected members and deputies for the Finnish Parliament, European Parliament, and local leadership.[54] All presidential candidates and their support groups, and any group working  solely  to elect a president, must also report their campaign finances.[55] The person who completes the report is responsible for its content.[56]

Candidates in local elections who have received less than €800 (approximately US$870) in campaign contributions have reduced reporting requirements. They must only report their name, title, occupation, party membership, and pertinent election information, and sign a statement to the effect that they have not received donations exceeding the threshold.[57]

All others must provide the following information:

1) relevant election;

2) candidate’s name, title, occupation, the party or constituency association nominating him or her, and – during Parliamentary elections – the electoral district, and during municipal elections the municipality;

3) the total costs for the campaign including specifications for costs of advertisements in newspapers, election magazines, free magazines, and periodicals, radio, television, Internet, and other media as well as outdoor media, brochures, and other printed products, advertisement planning and election meetings as well as other costs;

4) the total election finance specified according to the candidates own funds, including loans taken and outstanding invoices at the time of reporting, and all contributions to the candidate, the candidate support group or any other group that has worked solely to support the candidate, grouped as contributions from individuals, corporations, party, party affiliations, and other donors; [and]

5) other information on election finance and costs for the election campaign that the reporter deems necessary.[58]

In addition, contributions in the  amount of €800 in municipal elections and €1500 (approximately US$1,600) in all other elections must be reported separately.[59] For contributions that are below these limits, express consent from the donors is required before listing them separately by name.[60]

Candidates who have taken loans to finance their elections should also include a plan for repayment of that loan.[61] If a candidate receives more than €1,500 in contributions to repay a loan, he or she should report this in a post-election report.[62] Candidates are also allowed to submit pre-election reports detailing their campaign finances.[63]

All political parties must also report their election financing.[64] Such reporting includes the cost of hiring staff and renting facilities, contributions received, etc.[65]

The National Audit Office of Finland audits candidates’ and political parties’ financial reports[66] and issues audit reports.[67]

Municipal elections may have special requirements for reporting on campaign finances prior to the start of the election campaign.[68]

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VI. Media Rules

All media, including those that cover presidential, parliamentary, and local elections, are bound by ethical standards.[69]

By law, state-run media (the public service company Yleisradio, YLE[70]) must adhere to a principle of impartiality.[71] However, YLE may also consider program-related issues.[72] YLE has interpreted this to include public interest in a certain party, the size of the party, and whether or not the party is already represented in Parliament.[73] The purpose of state-financed YLE media (television and radio) is to “provide a diverse and comprehensive range of television and radio programs as a public service, with accompanying specials and add-on services for everyone on the same conditions.”[74] Specifically it must “serve democracy and individuals’ opportunities to exert their influence, by offering a diverse range of facts, opinions, and discussions, as well as the possibility for interactive discussions.”[75] It may not broadcast sponsored programs.[76]

Although the law does not prescribe a quota system for media coverage, an OSCE report found that during the 2011 election YLE offered each political party that was already represented in Parliament the same amount of airtime on Finnish-speaking radio and television outside of the debates.[77] All political parties already represented in Parliament were also represented at two debates, while the four largest parties squared off in one extra debate.[78] YLE also held a separate debate for the nine largest political parties who were not represented in Parliament.[79] During the 2011 parliamentary election the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority only received one complaint alleging media bias against a political candidate, which was found groundless.[80] Nevertheless, the OSCE/ODIHR recommended that YLE should provide political parties who are not already represented in Parliament more attention so as to guarantee their opportunity to present their political message.[81]

Media are also subject to specific internal ethical rules for their programs.[82] These rules include specific provisions on election coverage.[83] According to these rules, media’s efforts should be undertaken and coordinated so that candidates are treated equally.[84] Under YLE ethical guidelines, persons who work as editors or hold similar positions who decide to run for office or publicly support certain candidates must be reassigned during their campaigns so as to not jeopardize the reputation of the YLE.[85]

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Prepared by Elin Hofverberg
Foreign Law Research Consultant
March 2016


[1] 1 ch. 1–2 §§ FINLANDS GRUNDLAG [FINNISH CONSTITUTION] (Finlands Författningssamling [FFS] 11.6.1999/731), http://www.finlex.fi/sv/laki/ajantasa/1999/19990731, archived at https://perma.cc/6KHT-J42B.

[2] Id. 1 ch. 3 § and 5 ch. 57, 66 §§. For general information see Position and Duties, THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF FINLAND, http://www.tpk.fi/public/default.aspx?nodeid=44818&contentlan=2&culture=en-US (last visited Mar. 2, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/R6YJ-22CR; Role of the Prime Minister, FINNISH GOVERNMENT, http://valtioneuvosto.fi/en/government/role-of-the-prime-minister (last visited Mar. 2, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/3RXL-765W.

[3] CIA WORLD FACTBOOK: FINLAND (Feb. 25, 2016), https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world- factbook/geos/fi.html, archived at https://perma.cc/D39R-UY4L; Kommuner och landskap, SUMOI.FI (Jan. 4, 2016), https://www.suomi.fi/suomifi/svenska/staten_och_kommunerna/kommunerna_och_kommunalforvaltning/kommuner_och_landskap/index.
html
, archived at https://perma.cc/JD4X-ZFRY.

[4] See LANDSKAPSLAG OM VALFINANSIERING [REGIONAL ACT ON ELECTION FINANCING] (Ålands Författningssamling [ÅFS] 2011:17), at 74, http://www.regeringen.ax/sites/www.regeringen.ax/files/attachments/page/lagsamling_2012_hela.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/3VE2-EEB5.

[5] 109 § VALLAG [ELECTION ACT] (FFS 2.10.1998/714), http://www.finlex.fi/sv/laki/ajantasa/1998/19980714?search%5Btype%5D=pika&search%5Bpika%5D=vallag#L9P108, archived at https://perma.cc/J8MT-US3L.

[6] Id. 112 §.

[7] Id. 108 § (Parliament), 128 § (President).

[8] Id. 111 §.

[9] Id. 136 §.

[10] 9 § 1 para. PARTILAG [POLITICAL PARTY ACT] (FFS 10.1.1969/10), http://www.finlex.fi/sv/laki/ajantasa/1969/19690010?search%5Btype%5D=pika&search%5Bpika%5D=partilag, archived at https://perma.cc/9PZ6-8EJJ.

[11] Id.

[12] Proposition [Government Bill] No. RP 73/2015 rd, at 7, http://www.finlex.fi/sv/esitykset/he/2015/20150073.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/FT5B-7C4J.

[13] Id.

[14] Partifinansieringen, VAALIT.FI (Feb. 5, 2016), http://www.vaalit.fi/sv/index/partier/partifinansiering.html, archived at https://perma.cc/VJT8-XKCQ.

[15] Id.; 9 § 3 para POLITICAL PARTY ACT.

[16] Id.

[17] See Proposition [Government Bill] No. RP 73/2015 rd, supra note 12, at 5.

[18] What is Greco?, COUNCIL OF EUROPE, https://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/greco/general/3.%20What%20is%20GRECO_en.asp (last visited Mar. 4, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/A7TM-4DBE.

[19] Stina Sirén, Europarådet nöjt med Finlands valfinansieringslag, SVENSKA YLE (Dec. 3, 2009), http://svenska.yle.fi/artikel/2009/12/03/europaradet-nojt-med-finlands-valfinansieringslag, archived at https://perma.cc/SEY9-9RCR.

[20] FINLAND RIKSDAGSVAL, 17 APRIL 2011: RAPPORT FRÅN OSSE/ODIHR:S VALMISSION [OSSE ELECTION REVIEW REPORT], http://www.vaalit.fi/uploads/dpjy0ay2w7ll8i5.pdf (unofficial Swedish translation), archived at https://perma.cc/V5LU-PPMH.

[21] LAG OM KANDIDATERS VALFINANSIERING [ACT ON CANDIDATES’ CAMPAIGN FINANCING] (FFS 24.4.2009/273), http://www.finlex.fi/sv/laki/ajantasa/2009/20090273, archived at https://perma.cc/7DYP-FBQV.

[22] Id. 2 § (translation by author).

[23] Id. (translation by author).

[24] Id. 3 §.

[25] Id.

[26] Id.

[27] 4 § 1 para. LAG OM KANDIDATERS VALFINANSIERING (Candidates); 8b § 1 para. POLITICAL PARTY ACT (Parties).

[28] Id.; see also Statsrådets förordning om penninginsamlingar [Government Regulation on Cash Contributions] (FFS 21.6.2006/503), http://www.finlex.fi/sv/laki/ajantasa/2006/20060503?search%5Btype%5D=pika&search%5Bpika%5D=255%2F2006, archived at https://perma.cc/PLF8-GQLX.

[29] 4 § 3 para. LAG OM KANDIDATERS VALFINANSIERING.

[30] 8b § 3 para. POLITICAL PARTY ACT (translation by author).

[31] 4 § LAG OM KANDIDATERS VALFINANSIERING (translation by author).

[32] Id.

[33] 8b § 2 para. POLITICAL PARTY ACT.

[34] 4 § LAG OM KANDIDATERS VALFINANSIERING.

[35] Id. 4 § 2 para.

[36] Id.

[37] Peter Sjöholm, Riksdagsledamöternas kampanjer kostade 7,5 miljoner, SVENSKA YLE (June 23, 2015), http://svenska.yle.fi/artikel/2015/06/23/riksdagsledamoternas-kampanjer-kostade-75-miljoner, archived at https://perma.cc/PNN5-G2VR.

[38] Id. (translation by author).

[39] Id.

[40] 4 § 2 para. LAG OM KANDIDATERS VALFINANSIERING.

[41] Id.

[42] See id.

[43] 14 ch. 2 § STRAFFLAG [CRIMINAL ACT] (FFS 19.12.1889/39), http://www.finlex.fi/sv/laki/ajantasa/1889/ 18890039001?search%5Btype%5D=pika&search%5Bpika%5D=strafflag archived at https://perma.cc/CGY9- GQ6K.

[44] Sjöholm, supra note 37.

[45] Id.

[46] Eva Brunell, Haglund fick ovanligt stort kampanjstöd, SVENSKA YLE (June 18, 2015), http://svenska.yle. fi/artikel/2015/06/18/haglund-fick-ovanligt-stort-kampanjstod, archived at https://perma.cc/UZ6V-USYR.

[47] Id.

[48] Id.

[49] Id.

[50] See Amendment No. 1689 of Dec. 30, 2015 (FFS 30.12.2015/1689).

[51] 8 § LAG OM KANDIDATERS VALFINANSIERING.

[52] Id.

[53] Id. 5 §.

[54] Id.

[55] Id.

[56] Id. 7 §.

[57] Id. 6 § 6 para.

[58] Id. 6 § (translation by author).

[59] Id. 6 § 3 para.

[60] Id.

[61] Id.

[62] Id. 11 a §.

[63] Id. 11 §.

[64] 9b § POLITICAL PARTY ACT.

[65] Id.

[66] Id. 10 §.

[67] For report on the 2015 election, see STATENS REVISIONSVERKS BERÄTTELSE TILL RIKSDAGEN OM TILLSYNEN ÖVER PARTIFINANSIERINGEN 2015 (STATENS REVISIONSVERKS BERÄTTELSER TILL RIKSDAGEN B 1/2016 RD) (Feb. 12, 2016), http://www.vtv.fi/files/5027/B1_2016_rd_partifinansieringen_2015.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/E7FV- 3T7B.

[68] Anmälan om valfinansiering bör göras innan årsskiftet, KOMMUNERNA (Nov. 16, 2011), http://www.kunnat. net/sv/databanker/nyheter/2012/Sidor/anmalan-om-valfinansiering.aspx, archived at https://perma.cc/ML5P-7VAZ.

[69] Etiska regler för press, TV och radio [Ethical Rules for Press, TV and Radio], PO http://www.po.se/ regler/pressetiska-regler (last visited Feb. 29, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/255C-ZEES.

[70] YLE, http://svenska.yle.fi/bolaget (last visited Mar. 2, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/5KM9-DBDV.

[71] 10 § POLITICAL PARTY ACT.

[72] Id. 10 § 2 para.

[73] FINLAND RIKSDAGSVAL, 17 APRIL 2011: RAPPORT FRÅN OSSE/ODIHR:S VALMISSION, supra note 20, at 17.

[74] 3 ch. 7 § 1 para. LAG OM RUNDRADION AB [ACT ON YLE] (FFS 22.12.1993/1380) http://www.finlex.fi/sv/ laki/ajantasa/1993/19931380 (translation by author), archived at https://perma.cc/UN97-6FD8.

[75] Id. 3 ch. 7 § 3 para. 1 item.

[76] Id. 5 ch. 12 § 2 para.

[77] FINLAND RIKSDAGSVAL, 17 APRIL 2011: RAPPORT FRÅN OSSE/ODIHR:S VALMISSION, supra note 20, at 17.

[78] Id. at 17–18.

[79] Id. at 19.

[80] Id. at 17.

[81] Id. at 18.

[82] Yles etiska regler för program- och innehållsproduktion (EPI), YLE, http://svenska.yle.fi/sida/yles-etiska-regler- program-och-innehallsproduktion-epi (last visited Mar. 2, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/D64J-AP4N.

[83] Id. ¶¶ 34–35.

[84] Id. ¶ 35.

[85] Id.

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Last Updated: 05/19/2016