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President Niinistö backs idea of separate constitutional court

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö says Finland should look into the establishment of an independent constitutional court charged with examining new laws for constitutional compliance.

Presidentinvaalitentti 2018 Madetojan sali oulu
Finland's President on January 10 Image: Päivi Köngäs / Yle

President Sauli Niinistö is open to the idea of a constitutional court in Finland. In an interview with the Keskisuomalainen newspaper, the president said the matter should be investigated seriously and thoroughly before proceeding.

"There's no hurry, better to take our time and really devote ourselves to exploring and discussing the matter," the president said to the paper.

Unlike many other countries, Finland does not currently have a separate judicial body for assessing constitutional compliance. A parliamentary committee currently serves this function, which is problematic because its members are MPs.

Niinistö said he was in favour of investigating the possibility when he sat on the parliamentary constitutional law committee as an MP in the 1990s, but later abandoned the idea. He told the paper he had since returned to his original stance on the issue and said that he believes that the establishment of a constitutional court should be examined.

Sipilä and Orpo opposed

Other prominent politicians that have publically expressed their support for a separate judicial body for overseeing constitutional compliance include the Foreign Minister Timo Soini and the Swedish People's Party chair Anna-Maja Henriksson. Prime Minister Juha Sipilä and Finance Minister Petteri Orpo have both gone on record as being against it.

Many countries, including Germany, France and Russia for example, have created independent constitutional courts for assessing whether newly enacted laws are in contradiction with their constitutions.

Since taking office in 2015, Sipilä's government has been repeatedly accused of fast-tracking legislation that is in opposition to the Finland's constitution. The overhaul of the social and health care system has been delayed several times for this reason, among others.

In December 2016, Finland's then-Chancellor of Justice Jarkko Jonkka accused the centre-right government of subverting constitutional law in many of its drafts of legal reforms. 

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