Social Democratic Party of Finland

Social Democratic Party of Finland

party_name = Social Democratic Party of Finland
party_wikicolourid = Red/Pink
name in Finnish = Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue
name in Swedish = Finlands Socialdemokratiska Parti
leader = Jutta Urpilainen
foundation = 1899
european = Party of European Socialists
position = Centre-left
ideology = Social democracy
international = Socialist International
colours = Red
headquarters = Saariniemenkatu 6
president = Tarja Halonen (incumbent)
website = []
The Social Democratic Party of Finland (in Finnish: "Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue", "SDP") is one of the most influential political parties in Finland, along with the Centre Party and the National Coalition Party. It has been in the Cabinet for long periods of time, the last time in 1995–2007, and has set many fundamental policies of the Finnish state. SDP's social democratic politics are generally more moderate than those of the parliament's other left-leaning party, the Left Alliance.

In the early 20th century SDP steadily commanded some 40% of the vote, but after the Finnish Civil War of 1918, communists split from the party to form a party of their own. After that, SDP has commanded 20–29% of the total votes in all elections where communists or their fronts have been allowed to operate. Even after support for the communist electoral organization SKDL dwindled in the 1980s, SDP's share of the popular vote has remained at 21–28 percent. The Social Democratic Party has about 59,000 members. Jutta Urpilainen is the party's current leader. Tarja Halonen was SDP's winning candidate for presidency of Finland in 2000 and 2006. The two preceding presidents, Mauno Koivisto (term 1982–1994) and Martti Ahtisaari (term 1994–2000), have been Social Democrats as well.

In the 2007 parliamentary election, SDP received 21.4 percent of the vote and lost 8 seats to bring its total down to 45. It was the first time the party finished in third place since 1962.

Note that despite the fact that "sosiaali" in Finnish has a long "a", the name of this party is spelt with a short "a", for historical reasons. The official name (as registered in Finland's party registry) is "Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue / Finlands Socialdemokratiska Parti r.p."


The party was founded as the Finnish Labour Party (in Finnish: "Suomen Työväenpuolue") in 1899. The name was changed to the present form in 1903. The party remained a chiefly extra-parliamentary movement until the universal suffrage of 1906, after which SDP's share of the votes and seats at best reached 47% in 1916, when the party secured a majority in the parliament. This was the only time in the history of Finland when one party has had a majority in the parliament. It lost its majority in the 1917 election and in 1918 started a rebellion that escalated into the Finnish Civil War. The war resulted in most party leaders on all levels being killed, imprisoned or seeking refuge abroad. In addition, the process leading to the Civil War and the war itself had stripped the party of its legitimacy and respectability in Finnish political life in the eyes of the right-wing majority. However, the political support for the party remained strong, and in the elections of 1919, the party, reorganised by Väinö Tanner, gained some 80 of the 200 seats in the parliament. Some refugee Social Democrats founded the Communist Party of Finland in Moscow in 1918. Although the Communist Party was banned in Finland until 1945, the support of the Finnish working class was in the following elections divided between the Social Democrats and organizations acting as communist fronts.

in 1939-40.

During the first few months of the Continuation War (1941-1944) the country, the parliament, and the Cabinet were divided on the question whether Finland's army should stop at the old border and thereby demonstratively refrain from any attempts of conquests. The country's dangerous position called however for national unity, and the party's leadership chose to refrain from any visible protests. This decision is often indicated as one of the main reasons behind post-war division and the high percentage of Communist voters in the first elections after the Continuation War.

After the Continuation War, the Communist Party was allowed to work openly, and the main feature of Finnish political life during period 1944–1949 was fierce competition between the Social Democrats and the Communists for voters and control of the labor unions. At this time, the political field was divided roughly equally between the Social Democrats, Communists and the Agrarian League, each party commanding some 25% of the vote. In the post-war era, the Social Democratic party adopted a line defending the Finnish sovereignty and democracy in line with the Agrarian League and other bourgeois parties, finally leading to the expulsion of the Communists from the Cabinet in 1949. However, it remained obvious that the Soviet Union was much more openly critical against SDP than against the "openly" bourgeois parties.

Because of the anti-communist activities, the CIA of the United States funded the party. The money was laundered by giving it to Nordic sister parties, which delivered it, or to organizations that bought "luxury goods" such as coffee abroad and imported them and sold them with a high profit; the post-war rationing served to inflate prices.

In the presidential election of 1956, SDP's candidate Karl-August Fagerholm lost with only one single elector's vote to Urho Kekkonen. Fagerholm would act as a Prime Minister in 1956-1957 and 1958-1959. The latter Cabinet was, however, forced to resign due to Soviet pressure, leading to a series of Agrarian League Cabinets. In 1958 a faction of the party resigned and formed the "Alliance of Finnish Workers and Small Farmers" (TPSL) around the former SDP chairman Emil Skog due to the election of Väinö Tanner as party chairman. The dispute was several issues: should SDP function as an interest group or not, and should they co-operate with the anti-Communists and right-wingers or President Kekkonen, the Agrarians and Communists. During the 1960s, this fraction dwindled, its members returning little by little to the SDP or joining the Communists. The founder himself, Emil Skog, returned in 1965, and in 1970, the fraction lost its seats in the parliament.

in 1995 in concert with the Cabinet.

Latest elections

SDP won 53 of the 200 seats in Parliament in the March 16, 2003 elections, which ended in a very close run with the Centre Party. As a result, SDP's former chairman Paavo Lipponen became the Speaker of Parliament, and the Centre chairwoman Anneli Jäätteenmäki became Prime Minister for a coalition Cabinet that also included the minor Swedish People's Party beside the two major partners. SDP had eight portfolios in the Cabinet. After two months Jäätteenmäki resigned due to a scandal and was replaced by Matti Vanhanen.

In the 2007 elections, the party lost eight seats (15% of seats) and finished with the third place. The chairman of the largest party, Matti Vanhanen, was named Prime minister, but he selected the second-most popular National Coalition party, the Greens and the Swedish People's Party to the cabinet, leaving the Social Democrats into the opposition. Eero Heinäluoma did not immediately resign as a party chairman. However, he announced his withdrawal from the next vote for party chairman on the next party conference, where he was replaced by Jutta Urpilainen.

Prominent Social Democrats

*Oskari Tokoi
*Yrjö Sirola
*Väinö Tanner - Prime Minister, Foreign Minister during the Winter War
*Karl-August Fagerholm - Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament
*Kalevi Sorsa - Prime Minister
*Mauno Koivisto - President 1982-1994
*Martti Ahtisaari - President 1994-2000
*Erkki Tuomioja - Foreign Minister 2000-2007
*Paavo Lipponen - Prime Minister 1995-2003 and Speaker of Parliament
*Tarja Halonen - President 2000--

List of party Chairmen

* Nils Robert af Ursin - 1899-1900
* J. A. Salminen - 1900
* K. F. Hellsten - 1900-1903
* Taavi Tainio - 1903-1905
* Emil Perttilä - 1905-1906
* Edvard Valpas - 1906-1909
* Matti Paasivuori - 1909-1911
* Otto Wille Kuusinen - 1911-1913
* Matti Paasivuori - 1913-1917
* Kullervo Manner - 1917-1918
* Väinö Tanner - 1918-1926
* Matti Paasivuori - 1926-1930
* Kaarlo Harvala - 1930-1944
* Onni Alfred Hiltunen - 1944-1946
* Emil Skog - 1946-1957
* Väinö Tanner - 1957-1963
* Rafael Paasio - 1963-1975
* Kalevi Sorsa - 1975-1987
* Pertti Paasio - 1987-1991
* Ulf Sundqvist - 1991-1993
* Paavo Lipponen - 1993-2005
* Eero Heinäluoma - 2005-2008
* Jutta Urpilainen - 2008-

External links

* [ Official website in Finnish] fi
* [ Official website in English] en

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