In 1899, the Labour Party of Finland (Suomen Työväenpuolue) was founded. Four years later it became the Social Democratic Party of Finland (Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue — SDP). Its policy, inspired by the Erfurt Program (1891)1, was committed to freedom of the press and association, compulsory education, gender equality, an eight-hour working day and the introduction of universal suffrage. The SDP is the youngest Scandinavian socialist party. Its foundation occurred in a context marked by two major policy issues: the struggle for national independence and the reform movement in favor of parliamentary democracy (Alapuro, 1988). Taking advantage of the weakening Tsarist Empire during the 1905 Revolution and the Russo-Japanese War, the SDP participated in demonstrations that would permit the creation of new democratic institutions, including a unicameral parliament (Eduskunta) elected by proportional representation. Finland then became the first European country to grant women voting rights. The 1906 reforms were the result of the solidarity between the liberal Constitutionalists, advocating political sovereignty, and the Social Democrats, who promoted political integration of the popular classes through universal suffrage (Sundberg, 1999). Following these successes, in 1907 the SDP became the country’s largest party, with 80 members in parliament, before obtaining 47 percent of the vote in 1916, still the only example of a Finnish party having held a majority in the House. It was, at the electoral level, one of the most powerful social democratic parties in Europe.


Party System Coalition Government Center Party Social Democratic Party European Election 
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© Michel Hastings 2013

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