Citizens’ intiatives in Finland
A new form of participation on the state level, citizens' initiative, was taken into use in Finland on 1 March 2012. It offers citizens a possibility to have their initiative considered by the Parliament. The objective of the new system is to promote free civic activity.
According to the new provision in the Constitution, which entered into force in the beginning of March, at least fifty thousand Finnish citizens entitled to vote have the right to submit an initiative for the enactment of an Act to the Parliament. The Act on citizens' initiative includes provisions on the procedure to be followed when organising a citizens' initiative.
Kansalaisaloite.fi / Medborgarinitiativ.fi – an online system for citizen initiatives
Kansalaisaloite.fi / Medborgarinitiative.fi is an online service of the Ministry of Justice for launching citizens' initiatives and collecting statements of support for these initiativesi. The service offers citizens a possibility to have their initiative considered by the Parliament.
The new online service is free of charge, accessible and safe to use. It is available in Finnish and Swedish. Statements of support may be collected via this service also for such initiatives for which the collection has already been started in other online services or on paper. In future, it will also be possible to submit initiatives to municipal authorities via the service.
The Ministry of Justice checks that the initiatives submitted by citizens contain the required information and that they do not contain such material that is not suitable for publication on the Internet. Thereafter, the collection of statements of supports may be started.
The online service is a part of the the e-participation environment Otakantaa.fi, which provides and gathers together several online services related to civic engagement. The project for the Finnish eParticipation Environment is part of the Action Programme on eServices and eDemocracy (SADe) coordinated by the Ministry of Finance.
The citizens’ initiative in a nutshell
A bill or a proposal to start a bill drafting process
A citizens' initiative may be organised by one or several Finnish citizens who are entitled to vote. The organiser shall designate one representative and one substitute to take care of the practicalities relating to the initiative procedure.
A citizens' initiative may include either a bill or a proposal that a bill drafting process should be started. An initiative may also concern amending or repealing an effective Act. If the initiative is formulated as a bill, it shall include the actual sections of the proposed legislation. The initiative shall comprise only one complex of issues and it must always include reasons for the proposal.
Statements of support shall be collected within six months
Signatures supporting a citizens' initiative, i.e. statements of support, must be collected within six months. They shall be collected either in paper form or electronically via an online data system. A specific form, which has been certified by the Ministry of Justice before the entry into force of the Act, shall be used for the collection of statements of support in paper form.
An initiative that is instituted online and for which the statements of support are collected online always require so called strong e-identification, for example the use of online banking codes or a mobile certificate provided by teleoperators.
The online collection of signatures shall be carried out either via a data system set up by the organiser himself or the free-of-charge online service maintained by the Ministry of Justice, to be introduced in the autumn 2012. The organiser must obtain a certificate from the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority for his or her own online collection system.
When the collection is completed, the organiser shall submit the statements of support to the Population Register Centre, which checks their validity and verifies the number of valid statements of support. If the number of valid statements goes up to 50,000, the organiser may submit the initiative to the Parliament for consideration. If the initiative has not been submitted to the Parliament within six months, it lapses.
The Parliament is obliged to take the citizens' initiative up for consideration, but thereafter it is at the Parliament's discretion whether the initiative will be approved or if it shall be amended in some way. If the Parliament decides to reject the initiative, a new initiative on the same subject matter may be submitted.
Disclosure of financial support and protection of personal data
Financial support received for organising a citizens' initiative and its donor shall be disclosed, if the value of the financial support from the same donor is at least 1,500 euros.
When statements of support are being collected and it is not yet sure whether the matter will be taken up for consideration by the Parliament, the names and other personal data of the signatories must not be made available to the public or to the other signatories. When collecting statements of support via the online service provided by the Ministry of Justice, the statements of support are also confidential.
The names of the signatories may be made public only after the Population Register Centre has verified that the number of statements of support goes up to the required minimum number 50,000.