In the 1945 parliamentary election, the Communists won a great victory and entered the Government from which they were forced to resign following defeat in the 1948 election. The following governments were coalitions of the Social Democrats and the Agrarian Party, until the former were forced to relinquish their position in 1958 due to distrust on the part of the Soviet Union. Major gains by the left in the 1966 parliamentary elections allowed the Communists and the Social democrats who had long been in opposition to return to the government. The political right (the National Coalition Party) was subsequently in opposition for some two decades.
A long Finnish tradition started in 1983, in which governments have lasted for four-year parliamentary terms. Before that, Finland was infamous for early elections and chronic government crises. Every Finnish government since 1983 has remained in office for the full term. The main parties have managed to keep coalitions stitched together even when their beginnings have been clouded in uncertainty, and the occasional departure of a single party has not led to the downfall of an entire government.
Spring 1987 marked a turning point when the conservative National Coalition Party and the Social Democrats formed a majority government which remained in power until 1991. After the 1991 election, the Social Democrats were left in opposition, and a new government was formed by the Conservatives and the Centre Party (formerly the Agrarian Party). The government headed by Esko Aho was in office until spring 1995.
Two factors added considerable interest to the presidential elections of 1994: the announcement by the incumbent president Mauno Koivisto that he would not seek re-election and the new system of direct presidential elections. None of the candidates gained an absolute majority in the first round and the second round in February pitted Martti Ahtisaari, secretary of state at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, against Elisabeth Rehn, Minister of Defence. Martti Ahtisaari was elected the tenth president of the Republic of Finland with 54 per cent of the votes.
In Parliamentary elections held in March 1995 the Finnish Centre Party suffered a crushing defeat and Paavo Lipponen, the new chairman of the Social Democratic Party, formed a unique government by Finnish standards. Apart from its backbone, comprising the Social Democrats and the National Coalition, the government included Greens, the Left-Wing Alliance and the Swedish People's Party.
Lipponen's "rainbow coalition" remained in office until the end of its four-year term. Among the government's most important tasks were positioning Finland within the structures of the European Union, improving the domestic economy and reducing unemployment.
Parliamentary elections in spring 2003 changed the political composition of the government. The National Coalition Party was excluded from the government of Centre Party leader Anneli Jäätteenmäki which comprised the Centre Party, the Social Democratic Party, and the Swedish People's Party. Jäätteenmäki herself, under political pressure, soon had to resign and in June 2003 Matti Vanhanen became prime minister. The political composition of the government remained unchanged.
In 2006, an unexpectedly close presidential election took place. The incumbent, President Tarja Halonen, representing the left side of the political spectrum, defeated her opponent Sauli Niinistö, from the conservative National Coalition Party and supported by the Finnish Centre Party, in the second round of voting by a narrow margin: 51.8% to 48.2%.
In the elections of 2007, the Parliament shifted noticeably to the right, when the National Coalition Party scored a big victory and the Social Democratic Party suffered a marked loss. Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, from the Centre Party, continued in his post, gathering together a conservative/centrist coalition government, which began its term in April 2007. Of its 20 ministers, 8 represented the Centre Party and 8 were from the National Coalition Party. The Green Party and the Swedish People's Party were also granted ministerial posts.
After several years at number one, in 2008 Finland fell to fifth place in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), because of secretiveness around political financing. The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), functioning under the auspices of the Council of Europe, also wrote a critical report. As early as the spring of 2008, it appeared that many MPs elected in the parliamentary elections of 2007 had bent and even broken the lax rules about reporting on political financing.
The Centre Party shrewdly changed tactics and published a list of its recent financiers, and asked that other parties follow suit. This smart move left the other two big parties, the moderately conservative Coalition Party and the Social Democratic Party, in an awkward position. They did not want to march to the Centre Party tune and played for time, saying it was up to the donors to decide whether to publish their donations. By that time the Coalition Party, the Centre Party's main government partner, had avoided bad publicity, giving the Centre Party the unenviable honour of basking in the media sun.
The Coalition Party finally paid the piper and opened its records, explaining that the fury had caused "doubts and insinuations, even of possible corruption". The last ones to follow were the Social Democrats and the Left-Wing Alliance, which both received substantial amounts of money from trade unions. The Social Democrats maintained that they disclosed their money trail to correct "false information".
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