|Rights in Finland||Graphical version|
Finland is a multicultural society with one law. Although a country with many cultures, customs and people, Finland has only one law. A nation’s law consists of all of the legal norms in force. It sets the rules of play for society.
Finland’s law consists of the Constitution, other acts enacted by Parliament and lower-level decrees issued by the President, Government or ministries.
The Constitution of Finland is a compilation of the key rules and values of Finnish democracy. The status of the individual is protected by the basic rights provided by the Constitution. Basic rights specify the basis of the rights of the individual and set restrictions on government activities.
Democracy is built on legislation. In Finnish society legislation is enacted by a democratically elected Parliament. Judicial power is exercised by independent courts of law.
The purpose of the judicial system is to provide legal protection. Legal protection is one of the people’s basic rights. The judicial system consists of the courts, the prosecution service, public legal aid and the enforcement authorities. Further information about these institutions can be found on the website of the Finnish judicial system.
Political rights are guaranteed by the Constitution of Finland. Further provisions about citizens’ opportunities to influence are laid down in many different acts.
For example, the Local Government Act includes provisions about municipal self-government and tools for the promotion of democracy. The Act on Political Parties regulates the activities of registered parties. The Associations Act supports freedom of association by setting a more detailed framework for associations. Some acts deal directly with opportunities to influence and others more indirectly.
All public use of power must be based on legislation. This idea is called the rule of law.
The rule of law includes the principle of legality. In democratic republics methods of government are bound – limited – by law. The opposite of this is ”violent” regimes governed by despots without mutually agreed rules.
In democracy the highest political power belongs to people. The French Revolution in 1789 introduced the idea of law as an expression of people's sovereignty to European thinking about the rule of law: citizens are both subjects and objects of power. This relationship is discussed further under Decision-making.
Through central government, political power is transformed into legal power. Political power becomes public power exercised by government authorities. Legislation is enacted by democratically elected Parliament and enforced by government authorities.
Public power is legal power in two senses: it is based on the existing law while at the same time the law sets limits to its content and the ways in which it can be exercised.
Laws are the norms of a democracy: society’s rules of play. Their other important purpose is to implement equality. Provisions regarding the basis of the rights and duties of the individual can only be enacted by Parliament in Finland. The basic rights of the individual can only be restricted by law.
Laws – acts – are characteristically general and abstract. This means that all citizens are equal before the law.
Updated on 29 September, 2006