Centre Party (Finland)

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Centre Party
Finnish: Suomen Keskusta
Swedish: Centern i Finland
President Juha Sipilä
Founded 1906; 110 years ago (1906)
Headquarters Apollonkatu 11 A
00100 Helsinki
Student wing Finnish Centre Students
Youth wing Finnish Centre Youth
Membership  (2011) 163,000[1]
Ideology Centrism
Agrarianism
Social-liberalism
Liberalism
Political position Centre[2]
European affiliation Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
International affiliation Liberal International
Colours      Green
Parliament
49 / 200
European Parliament
3 / 13
Municipalities
3,077 / 9,674
Website
www.keskusta.fi

The Centre Party of Finland (Finnish: Suomen Keskusta, Kesk; Swedish: Centern i Finland) is a centrist,[3] agrarian,[3][4][5][6] and liberal[4][5][7] political party in Finland. It is one of the four largest political parties in the country, along with the National Coalition Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Finns Party. It has 49 seats in the Finnish Parliament. The Centre Party chairman is Juha Sipilä, who was elected in June 2012 to follow Mari Kiviniemi, the ex-Prime Minister of Finland.

Founded in 1906 as the Agrarian League, the party represented rural communities and supported decentralisation of political power from Helsinki. In the 1920s, the party emerged as the main rival to the Social Democratic Party, and the party's first Prime Minister, Kyösti Kallio, held the office four times between 1922 and 1937. After World War II, the party settled as one of the four major political parties in Finland. Urho Kekkonen served as President of Finland from 1956 to 1982: by far the longest period of any President. The name 'Centre Party' was adopted in 1965, and 'Centre of Finland' in 1988. The Centre Party was the largest party in Parliament from 2003 to 2011, during which time Matti Vanhanen was Prime Minister for seven years. Following the 2011 election, the party was reduced in parliamentary representation from the largest party to the fourth largest, but in 2015 it reclaimed its status as the largest party.

The Centre Party's political influence is greatest in small and rural municipalities, where it often holds a majority of the seats in the municipal councils. Decentralisation is the policy that is most characteristic of the Centre Party. The Centre has been the ruling party in Finland a number of times since Finnish independence. 12 of the Prime Ministers of Finland, three of the Presidents and a former European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs have been from the party. The Finnish Centre Party is the mother organisation of Finnish Centre Youth, Finnish Centre Students, and Finnish Centre Women.

History[edit]

Founding[edit]

Santeri Alkio, the ideological father of the Centre Party.

The party was founded in 1906 as a movement of citizens in the Finnish countryside. Before Finnish independence, political power in Finland was centralised in the capital and to the estates of the realm. The centralisation gave space for a new political movement. In 1906 two agrarian movements were founded. They merged in 1908 to become one political party known as the Agrarian League or Maalaisliitto. An older, related movement was the temperance movement, which had overlapping membership and which gave future Agrarian League activists experience in working in an organisation.[8]

Santeri Alkio's ideology[edit]

Soon the ideas of humanity, education, the spirit of the land, peasant-like freedom, decentralisation, "the issue of poor people", progressivism,[9] and later the "green wave" became the main political phrases used to describe the ideology of the party. Santeri Alkio was the most important ideological father of the party.

Defending the republic[edit]

At the dawn of Finnish independence conservative social forces made an attempt to establish the Kingdom of Finland. The Agrarian League opposed monarchism fiercely[9] even though monarchists claimed that a new king from the German Empire and Hohenzollern would have safeguarded Finnish foreign relations. At this time, anti-anarchist peasants threatened the existence of the party.[10][11]

Because around 40 Social Democratic members of the Parliament had escaped to Russia after the Finnish Civil War and about 50 others had been arrested, the Agrarian League members of the Parliament became the only republicans in Parliament in 1918. Nevertheless, the news about the problems of the German Empire from German liberals encouraged the fight of Agrarian League in the Parliament.[12]

The Agrarian League managed to maintain the republican voices in the Parliament until the fall of the German Empire, which ruined the dreams of the monarchists.[13]

The relentless opposition to the monarchy was rewarded in the parliamentary election 1919 and the party became the biggest non-socialist party in Finland with 19.7% of the votes.

Post-war period[edit]

After the 1919 election, the centrist and progressive forces, including the Agrarian League, were constant members in Finnish governments. Their moderate attitude in restless post-war Finland secured a steady growth in following elections. The Party formed many centrist minority governments with National Progressive Party and got its first Prime Ministers Kyösti Kallio 1922 and Juho Sunila 1927.

Conciliation between right and left[edit]

For the Agrarian League, the centrist governments were just a transitional period towards an era, which would integrate the "red" and "white" sides of the Civil War into one nation. Nevertheless, not everyone were happy with the conciliatory politics of centrist governments. The extreme right Lapua Movement grew bigger and bigger in the Agrarian League strongholds in the countryside. Many party members joined the new radical movement. The Lapua Movement organised assaults and kidnappings in Finland between 1929 and 1932. In 1930, after the kidnapping of progressive president Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg, the Agrarian League broke off all its ties to the movement and got a new political enemy in the countryside - The Patriotic People's Movement (IKL), which was founded after the Lapua Movement was outlawed.[14]

In the parliamentary election 1933 the main campaign issues were the differing attitudes towards democracy and the rule of law between the Patriotic Electoral Alliance (National Coalition Party and Patriotic People's Movement) and the Legality Front (Social Democrats, Agrarian League, Swedish People's Party and Progressives). The Patriotic Electoral Alliance favoured continuing the search for suspected Communists - the Communist Party and its affiliated organisations in the spirit of the Lapua Movement. The Legality Front did not want to spend any significant time on searching suspected Communists, but rather wanted to concentrate on keeping the far-right in check. The Legality Front won the elections, but the Agrarian League lost a part of its support.[15][16]

Cooperation with the Social Democrats[edit]

Finland's president, centrist Kyösti Kallio, on a visit to a military hospital Christmas 1939.

Because of fierce opposition of the President Pehr Evind Svinhufvud the Social Democrats remained outside the government and the Agrarian League was part of the centre-right governments until 1937. In 1937 Presidential election the Agrarian League candidate Kyösti Kallio was elected president with the votes of centrist (Agrarian and Progressive) and social-democratic coalition which wanted to ensure that President Svinhufvud would not be re-elected. The new president allowed the first centre-left government to be formed in Finland. A new era had begun.

World War II[edit]

With the outbreak of the Winter War a government of national unity was formed. President Kallio died shortly after the war.

Kekkonen, the centrist statesman[edit]

Urho Kekkonen was the President of Finland from 1956 to 1982 and became a symbolic figure of a statesman in Finland. Graffiti representing Kekkonen in Pieksämäki, Finland.

In 1956, Urho Kekkonen, the candidate of the Agrarian League, was elected President of Finland, after serving as Prime Minister several times. Kekkonen remained President until 1982. Kekkonen continued the “active neutrality” policy of his predecessor President Juho Kusti Paasikivi, a doctrine which came to be known as the “Paasikivi–Kekkonen line”. Under it, Finland retained its independence while being able to trade with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members and those of the Warsaw Pact.

Pressure of populism[edit]

Veikko Vennamo, a vocal Agrarian politician, ran into serious disagreement particularly with Arvo Korsimo, then Party Secretary of the Agrarian Union, and was excluded from the parliamentary group. As a result, Vennamo immediately started building his own organisation and founded a new party, the Finnish Rural Party (Suomen maaseudun puolue, SMP) in 1959. Vennamo was a populist and became a critic of Kekkonen and political corruption within the "old parties", particularly the Centre Party. Although this party had minor successes, it was essentially tied to Veikko Vennamo's person. His son Pekka Vennamo was able to raise the party to new success in 1983, but after this the Rural Party's support declined steadily and eventually the party went bankrupt in 1995. However, immediately after this, the right-wing populist party True Finns (Perussuomalaiset) was founded by former members of SMP.

Transformation to Centre Party[edit]

In 1965, the party changed its name to "Centre Party" or Keskustapuolue and in 1988 took its current name Suomen Keskusta (literally Centre of Finland). Despite urbanisation of Finland and a temporary nadir in support, the party managed to continue to attract voters.

The Liberal People's Party (LKP) became a 'member party' of the Centre Party in 1982. The two separated again after the success of the Liberal People's Party in Sweden in 1985.[17]

Division over EU membership[edit]

Olli Rehn, European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs 2010–2014.

The Centre Party was a key player in making the decision to apply for Finnish EU membership in 1992. As the leading governing party its support for the application was crucial. The party itself, both leadership and supporters, was far from united on the issue. In the parliament 22 out of 55 Centre MPs voted against the application. In June 1994 the party congress decided to support EU membership (by 1607 votes to 834), but only after the Prime Minister and party chairman Esko Aho threatened to resign if the party were to oppose the membership.

The centrist tradition of defending equal political and economic rights for peripheral areas was reflected in the internal resistance that opposed chairman Aho's ambitions to lead Finland to the EU.[18] The Centre Party was in opposition 1995—2003 and opposed adopting the euro as Finland's currency. However, after regaining power in 2003, the party accepted the euro.

21st century developments[edit]

The party congress in June 2012 elected the newcomer Juha Sipilä to replace Mari Kiviniemi as the party's chair. Sipilä defeated young deputy chairman Tuomo Puumala and a well known veteran politician Paavo Väyrynen in the voting.

The previous chairman, Mari Kiviniemi, succeeded Matti Vanhanen as Prime Minister in 2010, serving in the office for one year. At the time she was the third Centre Party Prime Minister of Finland in succession. Anneli Jäätteenmäki preceded Vanhanen and she was the first woman as a Prime Minister of Finland. She did not seek another term as party chair.

Olli Rehn, a member of the party, served in the European Commission for ten years between 2004 and 2014, and was the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs in 2010–2014.

The Centre Party was the biggest loser of the 2011 parliamentary election, losing 16 seats and going from largest party to fourth place. The party's support was lower than in any parliamentary election since 1917. However, the party won the 2015 parliamentary elections and formed a coalition with the Finns Party and the National Coalition Party.

In March 2016, the Centre Party announced that its candidate for the 2018 presidential election will be the former Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, the first declared presidential candidate in the race.[19][20][21]

Stance[edit]

A Centre Party campaign in Jyväskylä.

The ideology of the party is unusual in the European context. Unlike many other large parties in Europe its ideology is not primarily based on economic systems. Rather the ideas of humanity, education, the spirit of the land, peasant-like freedom, decentralisation, "the issue of poor people", environmentalism and progressivism play a key role in Centrist politician speeches and writings.[9] From the very beginning of its presence, the party has supported the idea of decentralisation.[9]

Despite belonging to the Liberal International, the Centre Party does not play quite the same role in Finnish politics as do liberal parties in other countries, because the party evolved from agrarian roots.

The party has a more conservative wing, and prominent conservatives within the party, such as Paavo Väyrynen, have criticised overt economic and social liberalism.[22] In addition, in 2010 the party congress voted to oppose same-sex marriage.[23] When the Finnish Parliament voted on same-sex marriage in 2014, 30 of the 36 Centre MPs voted against it.[24]

The party is also divided on the issue of deepening European integration,[25] and contains a notable eurosceptic faction based on its more rural interests. The party expressly rejects a federal Europe. The party was originally opposed to Finland's membership in the Euro currency, but later stated that it would not seek to withdraw from the Economic and Monetary Union once Finland had entered.

In Finland, there is no large party that supports liberalism per se. Instead, liberalism is found in most major parties including the Centre Party, which supports decentralisation, free will, free and fair trade, and small enterprise. The Centre Party characteristically supports decentralisation, particularly decreasing the central power, increasing the power of municipalities and populating the country evenly. During the party's premierships 2003—2011 these policies were also manifested as transferrals of certain government agencies from the capital to smaller cities in the regions.

Throughout the period of Finland's independence the Centre Party has been the party most often represented in the government. The country's longest-serving president, Urho Kekkonen, was a member of the party, as were two other presidents.

Today, only a small portion of the votes given to the party come from farmers and the Centre Party draws support from a wide range of professions. However, even today rural Finland and small towns form the strongest base of support for the party, although it has strived for a breakthrough in the major southern cities as well. In the 2011 parliamentary election the party received only 4.5 per cent of votes cast in the capital Helsinki, compared to 33.4 per cent in the largely rural electoral district of Oulu.[26]

Organisation[edit]

Party structure[edit]

In the organisation of the Centre Party, local associations dominate the election of party leaders, the selection of local candidates and drafting of policy. The Headquarters in Apollonkatu, Helsinki leads financing and organisation of elections.

The party has 2.500 local associations,[27] which have 160.000 individual members.[28] The local associations elect their representatives to the Party Congress, which elects the party leadership and decide on policy. The local associations form also 21 regional organisations, which have also their representatives in the Party Congress.

The Party Congress is the highest decision making body of the party. It elects the Chairman, three Deputy Chairmen, the Secretary General and the Party Council.

The Party Council with 135 members is the main decision making body between the Party Congresses. The Party Council elects the Party Government (excluding the leaders elected by the Party Congress) and the Working Committee. The Party Council, the Party Government and the Working Committee must have at least 40% representation of both sexes.

The Finnish Centre Youth, Finnish Centre Students and Finnish Centre Women have their own local and regional organisations, which also name their representatives to the Party Congress.

People[edit]

Chairman[edit]

Deputy Chairmen[edit]

Party Secretary[edit]

Chairman of the Parliamentary Group[edit]

Deputy Chairmen of the Parliamentary Group[edit]

Other famous Centrist politicians today[edit]

International organisations[edit]

The party is a member of the Liberal International and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party and subscribes to the liberal manifestos of these organisations. Its members in the European Parliament are members of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group. The Centre Party has been a full member of the Liberal International since 1988, having first joined as an observer member in 1983.[29]

Prominent party leaders[edit]

List of party presidents[edit]

President Term begin Term end
Otto Karhi 1906 1909
Kyösti Kallio 1909 1917
Filip Saalasti 1917 1918
Santeri Alkio 1918 1919
Pekka Heikkinen 1919 1940
Viljami Kalliokoski 1940 1945
Vieno Johannes Sukselainen 1945 1964
Johannes Virolainen 1964 1980
Paavo Väyrynen 1980 1990
Esko Aho (first time) 1990 2000
Anneli Jäätteenmäki (first time) 2000 2001
Esko Aho (second time) 2001 2002
Anneli Jäätteenmäki (second time) 2002 2003
Matti Vanhanen 2003 2010
Mari Kiviniemi 2010 2012
Juha Sipilä 2012- present day

Elections[edit]

Below is a chart of the results of the Centre Party in Finnish parliamentary elections.

Support for the Centre Party by municipality in the 2011 parliamentary election — the party has traditionally fared strongest in the northern part of the country.
Parliamentary elections
Year MPs Votes
1907
9 / 200
51,242 5.75%
1908
10 / 200
51,756 6.39%
1909
13 / 200
56,943 6.73%
1910
17 / 200
60,157 7.60%
1911
16 / 200
62,885 7.84%
1913
18 / 200
56,977 7.87%
1916
19 / 200
71,608 9.00%
1917
26 / 200
122,900 12.38%
1919
42 / 200
189,297 19.70%
1922
45 / 200
175,401 20.27%
1924
44 / 200
177,982 20.25%
1927
52 / 200
205,313 22.56%
1929
60 / 200
248,762 26.15%
1930
59 / 200
308,280 27.28%
1933
53 / 200
249,758 22.54%
1936
53 / 200
262,917 22.41%
1939
56 / 200
296,529 22.86%
1945
49 / 200
362,662 21.35%
   
Year MPs Votes
1948
56 / 200
455,635 24.24%
1951
51 / 200
421,613 23.26%
1954
53 / 200
483,958 24.10%
1958
48 / 200
448,364 23.06%
1962
53 / 200
528,409 22.95%
1966
49 / 200
503,047 21.23%
1970
36 / 200
434,150 17.12%
1972
35 / 200
423,039 16.41%
1975
39 / 200
484,772 17.63%
1979
36 / 200
500,478 17.29%
1983
38 / 200
525,207 17.63%
1987
40 / 200
507,460 17.62%
1991
55 / 200
676,717 24.83%
1995
44 / 200
552,003 19.85%
1999
48 / 200
600,592 22.40%
2003
55 / 200
689,391 24.69%
2007
51 / 200
640,428 23.11%
2011
35 / 200
463,160 15.82%
2015
49 / 200
626,218 21.10%
Municipal elections
Year Councillors Votes
1950 121,804 8.09%
1953 282,331 16.04%
1956 366,380 21.91%
1960 401,346 20.44%
1964 413,561 19.28%
1968 3 533 428,841 18.93%
1972 3 297 449,908 17.99%
1976 3 936 494,423 18.43%
1980 3 889 513,362 18.72%
1984 4 052 545,034 20.21%
1988 4 227 554,924 21.10%
1992 3 998 511,954 19.22%
1996 4 459 518,305 21.81%
2000 4 625 528,319 23.75%
2004 4 425 543,885 22.77%
2008 3 518 512,220 20.09%
2012 3 077 465,167 18.66%
  European parliament
Year MEPs Votes
1996
4 / 16
548,041 24.36%
1999
4 / 16
264,640 21.30%
2004
4 / 14
387,217 23.37%
2009
3 / 13
316,798 19.03%
2014
3 / 13
339,398 19.7%
Presidential elections
indirect elections
Year Candidate Electors Votes
1925 Lauri Kristian Relander 69 123,932 19.9%
1931 Kyösti Kallio 69 167,574 20.0%
1937 Kyösti Kallio 56 184,668 16.6%
1950 Urho Kekkonen 62 309,060 19.6%
1956 Urho Kekkonen 88 510,783 26.9%
1962 Urho Kekkonen 111 698,199 31.7%
1968 Urho Kekkonen 65 421,197 20.66%
1978 Urho Kekkonen 64 475,372 19.4%
1982 Johannes Virolainen 53 534,515 16.8%
1988 Paavo Väyrynen 68 647,769 21.70%
   
direct elections
Year Candidate Votes
1988 Paavo Väyrynen 1    636,375 1 20.57 %
1994 Paavo Väyrynen 1    623,415 1   19.5 %
2000 Esko Aho 1 1,051,159
2 1,540,803
1   34.4 %
2   48.4 %
2006 Matti Vanhanen 1    561,990 1   18.6 %
2012 Paavo Väyrynen 1    536,731 1   17.5 %

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Vares, Vesa; Mikko Uola; Mikko Majander (2006). Demokratian haasteet 1907–1919, article in the book Kansanvalta koetuksella. Helsinki: Edita. ISBN 951-37-4543-0. 
  • Vares, Vesa (1998). Kuninkaan tekijät: Suomalainen monarkia 1917–1919. Myytti ja todellisuus. Porvoo-Helsinki-Juva: WSOY. ISBN 951-0-23228-9. 

References[edit]

  1. ^ Niemelä, Mikko (13 March 2011). "Perussuomalaisilla hurja tahti: "Jäseniä tulee ovista ja ikkunoista"". Kauppalehti. Retrieved 20 April 2011. 
  2. ^ Josep M. Colomer (25 July 2008). Political Institutions in Europe. Routledge. p. 260. ISBN 978-1-134-07354-2. 
  3. ^ a b Nanna Kildal; Stein Kuhnle (7 May 2007). Normative Foundations of the Welfare State: The Nordic Experience. Routledge. p. 74–. ISBN 978-1-134-27283-9. 
  4. ^ a b Svante Ersson; Jan-Erik Lane (28 December 1998). Politics and Society in Western Europe. SAGE. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-7619-5862-8. Retrieved 17 August 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Gary Marks; Carole Wilson (1999). "National Parties and the Contestation of Europe". In T. Banchoff; Mitchell P. Smith. Legitimacy and the European Union. Taylor & Francis. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-415-18188-4. Retrieved 26 August 2012. 
  6. ^ Emil J. Kirchner (3 November 1988). Liberal Parties in Western Europe. Cambridge University Press. p. 408–. ISBN 978-0-521-32394-9. Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  7. ^ Norman Schofield; Gonzalo Caballero (11 June 2011). Political Economy of Institutions, Democracy and Voting. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 319. ISBN 978-3-642-19519-8. 
  8. ^ Mickelsson, Rauli. Suomen puolueet — historia, muutos ja nykypäivä. Vastapaino, 2007.
  9. ^ a b c d Mylly, Juhani. Maalaisliitto-Keskustan historia II. http://www.hs.fi/kirjat/artikkeli/Suomen+keskustanv%C3%A4kev%C3%A4+nuoruusMaalaisliiton+historian+toinen+osa+on+j%C3%A4rjest%C3%B6historian+eliitti%C3%A4/900525165
  10. ^ Vares 2006, p. 113.
  11. ^ Vares 2006, p. 108
  12. ^ Vares 2006, p. 122-126
  13. ^ Vares 1998, p. 288-289
  14. ^ Siltala, Juha: Lapuan liike ja kyyditykset 1930, 1985, Otava
  15. ^ Seppo Zetterberg et al., eds., A Small Giant of the Finnish History / Suomen historian pikkujättiläinen, Helsinki: WSOY, 2003
  16. ^ Sakari Virkkunen, Finland's Presidents I / Suomen presidentit I, Helsinki: WSOY, 1994
  17. ^ Arter, David (1988). "Liberal parties in Finland". In Kirchner, Emil Joseph. Liberal Parties in Western Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 326–327. ISBN 978-0-521-32394-9. 
  18. ^ Raunio, Tapio. Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Tampere, The difficult task of opposing EU in Finland http://www.essex.ac.uk/ECPR/events/jointsessions/paperarchive/turin/ws25/RAUNIO.pdf
  19. ^ "Vanhanen lähtee presidenttikisaan ja luopuu keskustan eduskuntaryhmän johdosta" (in Finnish). Helsingin sanomat. 17 March 2016. Retrieved 18 March 2016. 
  20. ^ Matti Vanhanen presidentiksi (in Finnish). Retrieved 2016-05-21.
  21. ^ Matti Vanhanen kertoo nyt, miksi hän haluaa Suomen presidentiksi (in Finnish). Ilta Sanomat. Retrieved 2016-05-21.
  22. ^ "Väyrynen ryöpyttää keskustan liberaaleja". Kaleva.fi. Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  23. ^ "Homoliitot: Nämä puolueet sanovat ei". Uusi Suomi. Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  24. ^ Cracking open the numbers in the same-sex marriage vote, YLE 28 November 2014, accessed 5 November 2014.
  25. ^ http://www.hs.fi/paakirjoitus/artikkeli/Keskusta+sai+mahdollisuuden+uusiutua/1135265789055
  26. ^ "Vaalit 2011". Yle Uutiset. Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  27. ^ "Paikallisyhdistykset". Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  28. ^ http://www.keskusta.fi/Suomeksi/Keskusta/Keskustan_ihmiset.iw3
  29. ^ Steed, Michael; Humphreys, Peter (1988). "Identifying liberal parties". In Kirchner, Emil Joseph. Liberal Parties in Western Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 411. ISBN 978-0-521-32394-9. 

External links[edit]