Finland’s democracy to turn 100

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Finland’s democracy to turn 100

An exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of Finland’s democracy is on display at the Korea Foundation Cultural Center’s Gallery Areum in downtown Seoul.
The exhibition, “Right To Vote ― Trust in Law: 100 Years of Finnish Democracy,” hosted by the embassy of Finland in Seoul and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, has 14 photographs showing significant events that contributed to the founding of Finland’s democracy, and that capture the look of Finland today. The exhibition will run until Jan. 26.
According to a press release by the Finnish embassy, parliamentary reforms in 1906 became the foundation of Finland’s modern democracy and social structure.
It was in 1906 that all men and women were given democratic rights, including the right to vote and run in an election. On June 1 of that year, the first constitution and election law were passed at the Finnish parliament, the Eduskunta, and in March of 1907 the first democratic election was held.
In the first election 19 women were elected, which accounted for 9.5 percent of the total 200 lawmakers. The turnout was 70.7 percent, with 62 female candidates competing against their male counterparts.
Today there are 75 female members of parliament. A gender neutral political scene helped the country to elect its first female prime minister, Anneli Jaatteenmaki, in 2003.
Members of parliament serve a four-year term.
Finnish embassy spokeswoman Susanna Jacquelin told the JoongAng Daily via phone that the exhibit circulates to different parts of the world. Before coming to Korea, the photographs were on display in Canberra, Australia, and it will be traveling to Manila Philippines.
“The exhibition basically tries to cover the history of reform, from the time Finland was still part of Sweden and Russia up to now. It shows what this reform has brought to everyday life in Finland,” said Ms. Jacquelin.
Among the benefits the people in Finland today enjoy thanks to democracy, are human rights, gender equality and better public life and higher education.
“The exhibition shows how Finland has been defending these issues,” Ms. Jacquelin said.
This year is also special for Finland as there is a parliamentary election in March.
Among the pictures are scenes from when Finland was part of Sweden between 1150 and 1809. Other pictures depict life in Finland when it was the Grand Duchy of Russia. This was between 1809 and 1917.
There are also pictures from the first election in 1907, including one of the women who were elected that year. Included is Miina Sillanpaa, who later became the first woman in the country to become a government minister in 1926.
Other pictures show modern Finland. One is of a welfare society where girls are studying together. Another shows a group of women working out at a gym.

by Lee Ho-jeong

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