Through consultative referendums, decision-makers find out citizens’ opinion about a specific issue, but the result is not binding for decision-makers when they make the final decision.
In Finland the tradition of representative democracy is very strong. Referendums have a much stronger role in decision-making in many other countries.
In Finland Parliament decides on the use of consultative referendums. There have only been two national consultative referendums: in 1931 people voted for the abolition of the Prohibition Act, and in 1994 for membership of the European Union. In both cases the result of the vote was the same as the final decision.
Consultative referendums are de facto more binding than their definition. Once citizens have expressed their opinion in a referendum, it is difficult for politicians to act against this “will of the people”.
Finland has seen around 40 municipal referendums. Most have been about municipal mergers.
The decision to hold a municipal referendum is made by the municipal council. Municipal residents can submit an initiative for a referendum if five per cent of them support the initiative. To organise a municipal referendum is subject to a quite rigid procedure in today's Finland.
Updated on October 12, 2006