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The Republic of Finland is the most northerly independent nation in the world. It is a unitary parliamentary republic with a representative democracy. Suffrage is a universal right for those who are 18 or older. Finland became the first country in Europe to elect a woman president and a woman prime minister at the same time.

Finland adopted a republican constitution in 1919. It has been amended a few times, and in the 1990s, the Finns began a process of constitutional reform. The reforms addressed numerous issues, among them who should attend meetings of the European Union, which they had just joined, details about the power and responsibility of the country in international affairs, and constitutional recognition of their new membership in the European Union.

The legislature is a unicameral parliament whose members serve for four year terms. Parliamentary elections are fun using a system of proportional representation. This system is credited by many in Finland with the proliferation of political parties. Some of the recent parties include the Social Democratic Party, the Left-Wing Alliance Party, Christian Democrats, the National Coalition Party, the Centre Party, the Swedish Peiple's Party, the True Finn Party and the Green League.

The president is directly elected and serves for six years, largely in order to provide the country with a sense of stability, given the constant changes of government due to the multiparty system. The candidate has got to win a majority of the vote on the first round in order to win the presidency. If no majority is to be had, there is a run-off between the two candidates who got the most votes in the first round.

The executive branch consists of the president and the Council of State, also called the cabinet. The cabinet and the prime minister are appointed by the president, who chairs their meetings.

The president is the head of the armed forces. He can dissolve the parliament and has the power to make some decrees and conducts the nation's foreign policy, though major treaties and matters of war and peace have got to be approved by parliament.

Bills can be introduced in the parliament in the president's name. The president is able to refuse to sign a bill, but if it is passed in a subsequent parliament, he must sign it into law.

The judiciary is a separate branch from both the legislative and executive branches. The Supreme Court appoints district judges as well as appeals court judges. There are local district courts held in towns and cities by the chief judge and assistants, and in the rural areas by a judge and jurors. The chancellor of justice is the public prosecutor and the supreme judicial authority. The solicitor general, who is the ombudsman, is selected by the parliament, and the Supreme Administrative Court is the highest appeals court for administrative cases.

Finland is divided into 19 regions, called maakunnat, including the autonomous region of Åland, each of which is governed by a council.

There are more than 300 municipalities within the maakunnat. The majority of the municipalities have less than 10,000 residents.

Åland is different because it has a special status as a self-governing, demilitarized region. This was accomplished by the Act on the Autonomy of Åland, written in 1920 and settled by the League of Nations in 1921. The Act on the Autonomy of Åland affirmed that Finland had sovereignty over the region, based on a division of power between the islands and the rest of Finland. Åland has its own flag, its own parliament, and a representative on the Nordic Council.



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