|Elective offices||Graphical version|
Political elective offices are one of the basic forms of participation. Members of Parliament and municipal councillors – the most important elective offices in Finland – are chosen in elections.
In municipalities, committees are key organs in the preparation of decisions. Members of municipal committees are ordinary locals, but matters are often presented by a public servant responsible for the issue. Consequently, committees are venues where laypeople and government professionals meet. Through committees citizens’ voice can be heard directly in decision-making.
Those in municipal elective offices receive a fee but are not paid wages or salary. In most cases people enter an elected office through a local party association. But, an elected official need not be member of a party.
User democracy means interaction of representative democracy with local residents and service users. According to the Finnish Local Government Act, all or some of the members of a board of management of a municipal organ can be elected at the proposal of service users. Municipal committees can decide on the establishment, selection methods and duties of a body for cooperation between local residents and municipal authorities.
User democracy provides locals with the opportunity to be more closely involved in the planning and provision of services related to them. It aims at promoting citizens' choice by helping the municipality produce services that meet their wants and needs.
The best opportunities for user democracy can be found in local peoples’ networks and neighbourhood communities. It is hoped user democracy will also increase residents’ participation in other municipal decision-making processes.
Another manifestation of democracy in Finland is that ordinary people serve as lay members of District Courts. These lay judges administer justice alongside professional judges.
Most cases handled by courts are directly related to private citizens. Lay members distribute information about the principles of jurisdiction and the policies of courts. The lay judges of District Courts primarily participate in the consideration of criminal matters and family disputes.
Lay judges often tend to be people who are members of a party. But, in their position of trust they must be totally non-aligned.
Lay Judges [oikeus.fi]
Updated on October 12, 2006