Finnish citizens’ initiative
The citizens’ initiative is a tool for direct democracy which enables a minimum of 50,000 Finnish citizens of voting age to submit an initiative to the Parliament of Finland to enact an act. The citizens’ initiative procedure complements traditional representative democracy.
Organising a citizens’ initiative and collecting statements of support
One or more Finnish citizens of a voting age can organise a citizens’ initiative. The organiser of an initiative must designate one representative and one substitute. The content of a citizens’ initiative must comply with the requirements provided by the Citizens’ Initiative Act:
- the initiative must include a bill or a proposal to start drafting legislation and the reasons for the proposal
- the initiative must have a title describing its content
- the initiative must be dated and different matters must not be included in the same initiative
- the initiative must apply to a matter that can be enacted by law.
A minimum of 50,000 statements of support from Finnish citizens of voting age is required to support an initiative. Statements of support from signatories may be collected electronically or in paper form. The Ministry of Justice, Finland has set up an online system to collect statements of support. A self-management system may also be used subject to certification by the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority (Ficora). Statements of support collected in paper form must comply with the specific statement of support form.
Statements of support must be collected within a period of six months of the date of the initiative. The collection of statements of support must comply with the requirements of the Personal Data Act. The organisers must collect the family name, full first names, date of birth and municipality of residence from the signatories of statements of support.
How to submit statements of support
Having collected statements of support for a citizens’ initiative, the organiser or his designated representative must submit the statements of support to the Digital and Population Data Services Agency and apply for the statements to be certified. Application can be made on a form approved by the Digital and Population Data Services Agency. The decision issued by the Digital and Population Data Services Agency verifying that the initiative has the legally required number, a minimum of 50,000, of certified supporters is annexed to a citizens’ initiative submitted to the Parliament of Finland for consideration. This is an administrative decision that may be appealed in the manner provided by the Administrative Judicial Procedure Act.
The organiser of the citizens’ initiative must keep a record of the number of statements of support he or she has collected. Information about the number of statements of support to be certified must be submitted to the Digital and Population Data Services Agency in conjunction with the application. The Digital and Population Data Services Agency will initiate verification checks only if the number of statements of support is stated as being a minimum of 50,000.
Before submitting an application, the organiser must agree with the contact person at the Digital and Population Data Services Agency about how the statements of support are to be submitted. Statements of support collected electronically may not be sent as an email attachment for data security reasons.
The organiser may disclose information about the signatories of statements of support only to the Digital and Population Data Services Agency. The Digital and Population Data Services Agency can provide information about the statements, in other words, the information in its possession is public once the authority, by its decision, has confirmed that the certified number of valid statements of support received for an initiative is the minimum number required by law. If the decision shows that the initiative does not have a sufficient number of statements of support, the information will not be published.
Certification of the number of statements of support
The Digital and Population Data Services Agency checks the statements of support by comparing the information provided in them with the data in the Population Information System. The Digital and Population Data Services Agency recommends that organisers collect more than the minimum number of statements of support required to prevent the initiative from being rejected should some of the statements prove to be invalid.
All statements of support collected electronically are checked to verify them by comparing the information in the statements to the data in the Population Information System. Statements of support in paper form are checked by random sampling. Should the Digital and Population Data Services Agency find that there are less than 50,000 valid statements of support and that collection time remains, the organiser may complete his or her application by submitting new statements of support.
If checking shows there to be a sufficient number of valid statements of support, the organiser of the citizens’ initiative may submit his or her initiative to the Parliament of Finland. The initiative must be submitted by no later than six months of the Digital and Population Data Services Agency’s decision. Parliament has an obligation to consider the matter.
If the initiative is in the form of a legal text, it will be treated as a bill. If it is an initiative to start drafting legislation, it will receive a full reading in a plenary session of the Parliament of Finland, which will consider whether it accepts or dismisses the citizens’ initiative.
Senior Specialist Otto Palmu, tel. +358 295 535 137