The President's functions and powers are 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 the Government composed of a Prime Minister and a sufficient number of ministers (presently not more than 18) who 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, appointment of public officials, and so on. The number of matters within the scope of executive power has grown strongly since the 1919 Constitution was drafted. The centre of gravity in executive power has since shifted more towards the Government. EU membership has further contributed to this trend.
The President may upon the reasoned proposal of the Prime Minister, 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; he could do so when he considered it necessary. Presidents have ordered premature parliamentary elections on seven occasions: 1924 (Ståhlberg); 1929 and 1930 (Relander); 1953 (Paasikivi); 1961, 1971 and 1975 (Kekkonen).
The Prime Minister and the necessary number of Ministers comprise the Government. Ministers must be Finnish citizens of acknowledged honesty and skill, and must enjoy the confidence of Parliament.
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 the latter. Whenever a Government is being formed or its composition is substantially altered, Parliament must be in session.
As soon as its composition has been agreed upon, the new Government is appointed in the session of the resigning Council of Ministers, where the President first relieves the outgoing ministers of their duties and immediately appoints the new ones.
Upon a letter of resignation tendered by the Prime Minister on behalf of the whole Government or by any individual minister on his or her own behalf the President discharges the whole Government or the minister concerned. The President may also dismiss any minister upon the proposal of the Prime Minister. The President is constitutionally required to dismiss a Government or any minister as soon as they have lost the confidence of Parliament.
The Government always resigns after parliamentary elections. A resignation at any other time can result from a vote of no confidence by Parliament or because the preconditions for continuing co-operation between the coalition partners have ceased to exist.
The foreign policy of Finland is directed by the President of the Republic in co-operation with the Government. However, the Parliament accepts Finland's international obligations and their denouncement and decides on the bringing into force of Finland's international obligations in so far as provided in this Constitution. The President decides on matters of war and peace, with the consent of the Parliament.
The Government is responsible for the national preparation of the decisions to be made in the European Union, and decides on the concomitant Finnish measures, unless the decision requires the approval of the Parliament. The Parliament participates in the national preparation of decisions to be made in the European Union, as provided in this Constitution.
The President takes all significant decisions in relation to foreign policy in co-operation with the Government, which does the preparatory work. Decisions relating to foreign policy guidelines, initiatives and instructions to official representatives of Finland in all questions of importance either in principle or otherwise are the responsibility of the President, who also decides on recognition of foreign states, the establishment or severance of diplomatic relations, on Finnish diplomatic missions, on joining or withdrawing from international organisations, on delegations to international negotiations, and on the signing, ratification and entry into force of international conventions (subject to parliamentary approval when required).
The President appoints or assigns the highest officials in the foreign affairs administration and the heads of Finnish diplomatic missions (ambassadors). Diplomats representing other states and international organisations accredited to Finland present their credentials to the President.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs is responsible for the communication of important foreign-policy positions to other states and international organisations.
Under the Constitution, legislative power is exercised by Parliament. Legislation there is initiated either by a Government bill or through a legislative motion tabled by a Member or several Members of Parliament; a motion of this kind can be introduced only when Parliament is in session. The President issues Government bills and can also recall them. Parliament determines the final content of all acts; in other words, it can amend or reject Government bills.
Government bills are drafted by the relevant ministry. A draft is first approved by the cabinet and then submitted to the President. The President decides on the issuance of the draft bill in the Presidential sessions of the Government. If the President does not approve the draft bill, he or she can return it for redrafting. On the second reading the President has to issue the bill on the basis of the cabinet's new draft. The same procedure is followed in relation to recalling a Government bill.
The President must sign and approve for promulgation (ratification) 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.
The Office of the President of the Republic does not take care of matters related to preparing, presenting or ratifying legislation and cannot answer enquiries concerning them. Enquiries should be addressed to the appropriate ministry or, if this is unknown, to the Information Service at the Prime Minister's Office.
Under the powers conferred on them in the Constitution or other laws, the President, the Government and Ministries may issue decrees and other statutory orders. However, matters concerning the rights and obligations of the individual and any other matters stipulated in the Constitution as being within the sphere of legislation must be regulated by Act of Parliament. Unless otherwise stipulated, decrees and orders are issued by the Government. Presidential decrees are drafted by the relevant ministry and submitted to the President for approval by the relevant Minister in the Presidential sessions of the Government.
The Office of the President of the Republic does not take care of matters related to preparing or presenting decrees and cannot answer enquiries concerning them. Enquiries should be addressed to the appropriate ministry or, if this is unknown, to the Information Service at the Prime Minister's Office.
The President's powers of appointment are either stipulated in the Constitution or based on the provisions of other laws. The President appoints the following officials:
The President also appoints the Presidents and Justices of the Supreme Court and of the Supreme Administrative Court; the Presidents and Justices of the Courts of Appeal, other permanently appointed members of the judiciary and other officials stipulated separately in other laws.
The President decides on appointments in the Presidential sessions of the Government on the recommendation of the Government. In a judicial appointment the Government submits a list of three qualified candidates and the President is free to choose between them. In other than judicial appointment the Government submits only one qualified candidate, but the President is free to appoint any qualified person who has applied for the position.
The Office of the President of the Republic does not take care of matters related to preparing or presenting official appointments and cannot answer enquiries concerning them. Enquiries should be addressed to the appropriate ministry or, if this is unknown, to the Information Service at the Prime Minister's Office.
The President is the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, but may delegate this position to another Finnish citizen. The President commissions officers and decides on the mobilisation of the Defence Forces. If Parliament is not in session when a decision to mobilise is taken, it must be immediately convened. Delegation of the position of Commander-in-Chief is an exception to the principle that the President cannot delegate functions to others. In 1939 - 44 Marshal C-G E Mannerheim acted as Commander-in-Chief under delegated powers.
As Commander-in-Chief the President has the power to issue military orders concerning general guidelines for military defence, significant changes in military preparedness and the principles according to which military defence is implemented. He or she likewise decides on other military matters of far-reaching import or of substantial significance in principle as well as on military appointments and promotions.
The President decides on military matters on the submission of the Chief of Defence in conjunction with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence at a so-called in camera presentation of business, which generally takes place outside the Government. The Minister of Defence is required to be present at a meeting of this kind, whilst the Prime Minster is entitled, but not required to be present and express his or her views. The President may, on his or her own initiative or on the recommendation of the Minister of Defence, refer a matter arising at an in camera meeting to the Presidential sessions of the Government for decision; there it is presented by the Minister of Defence. The President's decisions at the Presidential sessions of the Government are made without any recommendation on the Government's part as to what the decision should be. The Chief of Defence is entitled to attend meetings of this kind and to express views at them.
The President in conjunction with the Minister of Defence decides on military appointments at an in camera meeting, where matters are presented by the Chief of Defence. The Minister is entitled, but not required to be present and express views at a meeting of this kind. The appointment and assignment of officers up to and including the rank of colonel are decided at in camera meetings. However, the appointment and assignment of the Chief of Defence, the Chief of the Defence Staff, a general, an admiral, the Chief Engineer of the Defence Forces, the Surgeon General and the Chaplain General are appointed and assigned to their tasks by the President at the Presidential sessions of the Government, on the recommendation of the Government as presented by the Minister of Defence. The same procedure is followed when the President appoints and assigns an officer of the Defence Forces to a post as military attaché, deputy military attaché or military representative, or to a comparable mission outside Finland.
The President decides on Frontier Guard military orders and on the appointment and assignment of Frontier Guard officers up to and including the rank of colonel at in camera meeting outside the Government, with the presentation of business performed by the Minister of the Interior. The Prime Minster is entitled, but not required to be present and express his or her views. Higher officers are appointed and assigned to their tasks by the President at the Presidential sessions of the Government, on the recommendation of the Government as presented by the Minister of the Interior.
In an individual case and having received an opinion of the Supreme Court, the President may remit, either wholly or in part, a sentence or other criminal penalty imposed by a court. A general amnesty can be granted only by Act of Parliament.
A pardon can apply only to a penalty (fine, imprisonment, forfeiture) imposed for a criminal offence. The President cannot waive obligations based on public or civil law, such as taxes, maintenance payments and bank loans. A pardon is possible only after all avenues of appeal in the courts system have been exhausted. Anyone at all may apply for a pardon, which does not require the consent of the person to whom it applies.
Pardon petitions are processed in the Ministry of Justice and submitted to the President by the Minister of Justice in the Presidential sessions of the Government. The Ministry also obtains as part of its processing procedure an opinion of the Supreme Court, which is a formal prerequisite for a pardon being granted.
The Office of the President of the Republic does not handle petitions for pardons and cannot answer enquiries concerning them. Enquiries should be addressed to Ministry of Justice.
The President grants titles on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in the Presidential sessions of the Government, usually twice a year. The title applications are processed by a permanent committee of which the Prime Minister is the chair.
The Office of the President of the Republic does not handle matters involving titles. Applications for titles that are sent to the Office of the President of the Republic will be forwarded to the Prime Minister's Office for consideration by the Title Board. Enquiries should be addressed to the secretary of the Title Board at the Prime Minister's Office.
The President, acting in the capacity of Grand Master, awards decorations and medals belonging to the Orders of the White Rose of Finland, the Lion of Finland and the Liberty Cross to Finnish and foreign citizens on the recommendation of the Boards of these Orders, as well as the Public Service Medal and the Life Saving Medal following separate statutory procedures.
A proposal that a decoration or medal be awarded can be made directly to the Board of the Order concerned by the Speaker of Parliament, a member of the Government or the Chancellor of Justice. In the case of military personnel, recommendations are made by the Chief of Defence. The Presidents of the Supreme Court, the Supreme Administrative Court and of the Courts of Appeal can make recommendations through the Ministry of Justice; Bishops and the Chancellor of the University of Helsinki make their recommendations through the Ministry of Education; Provincial Governors and the heads of central government agencies and comparable bodies, various institutions and organisations can likewise recommend the award of a decoration or medal.
Recommendations concerning awards of medals to outstanding mothers are made by Provincial Governors. Decorations and medals are awarded to Finnish citizens twice a year: on Independence Day (6.12) and, for military personnel, on the Flag Day of the Defence Forces (4.6). Decisions on awards to foreigners are made separately whenever necessary.
Formal presentations of decorations and medals to their recipients are generally arranged by the authority that has recommended them. Awards of medals to outstanding mothers are formally presented by the Minister of Social Affairs and Health on Mother's Day in May, usually with the President in attendance.
Recipients of decorations and medals pay a fee, the amount of which depends on the class to which the award belongs, to help defray the costs of the Orders.
The President can award a Public Service Medal to a civil servant. Persons who have been in the full-time service of the State for at least 30 years qualify for this award.
A recommendation that the President award a Life Saving Medal to an individual is made in writing to the Provincial Governor in whose jurisdiction the event has taken place. A recommendation that a medal be awarded to an organisation must be submitted to the Ministry of the Interior. All recommendations are referred to a committee at the Ministry for its opinion. Proposals concerning awards are formally made to the President by the Minister of the Interior at the Presidential sessions of the Government, usually once a year.
The Office of the President of the Republic does not handle matters concerning titles and decorations in Finland's Orders, the Public Service Medal or the Life Saving Medal and cannot answer enquiries concerning them. Enquiries should be addressed to the appropriate ministry, the County Administrative Board or the Boards of Finland's Orders.
The President appoints the Governor of the autonomous Åland Islands either after agreeing the appointment with the Speaker of the Åland Assembly or from among five persons shortlisted by the Assembly. Although the opening and closing of sessions of the Assembly are a Presidential function, they have generally been delegated to the Governor.
The President may submit proposals and statements to the Assembly for deliberation and, having consulted the Speaker, dissolve it and order a new election. Legislation enacted by the Assembly requires the President's assent. This may be refused if the Assembly exceeds its legislative authority, whereby the legislation lapses. The President's Åland-related decisions are drafted by the Ministry of Justice and submitted by the Minister.
The powers of the President of the Republic in times of emergency are stipulated in the Preparedness Act and the State of Defence Act.
The purpose of the Preparedness Act is to ensure that in exceptional circumstances the livelihood of the population and the nation's economy are safeguarded; that law and order and basic civic rights are preserved and to safeguard the territorial integrity and independence of the country. In a state-of-defence situation, only those provisions of the Preparedness Act that are not superseded by those of the State of Defence Act would be applied. At times of exceptional circumstances the President may issue a decree authorising the Government to exercise emergency powers for up to one year at a time. The decree must be submitted to Parliament for its approval.
Should the powers available under the Preparedness Act prove inadequate in an emergency, additional powers can be assumed under the State of Defence Act. The President may declare a state of defence by decree for a maximum of three months initially. If necessary, it can be extended for a maximum of one year at a time. A state of defence may also be declared in one or several regions of the country. The decree must be submitted to Parliament for approval.