The President of Finland is the Head of State in Finland. The office was created in 1919. The president is elected for the term of six years. Since 1994, no president may be in office for more than two consecutive terms.
After Finland's independence and the Civil War in Finland the matter of republic or constitutional monarchy was much debated (see Väinö I of Finland), and the outcome was a compromise: a rather monarchy-like, strong presidency with great powers over Finland's foreign affairs and appointment of cabinet and officers of the civil service. The constitution was changed in year 2000, to distribute some of this power to the parliament and the cabinet. The new constitution specifies how principles of Parliamentarism are to be followed (which Finland's presidents have done since 1937 anyway).
Between 1919 and 1987, the president was elected indirectly by an electoral college made up of electors chosen by voters in the presidential election. In the 1987 presidential election, a direct and an indirect election were conducted in parallel: if no candidate would gain majority, the president was elected by an electoral college formed in the same elections. Since then, presidential elections have been two-staged: if no candidate wins majority in the first stage, the top two candidates rerun in the second stage.
There have been several exceptional presidential elections. The first president (Ståhlberg) was chosen by the parliament due to the transition rule of the constitution. In 1940 and 1943, the 1937 electoral college chose the president, as it was felt that a popular election could not be arranged due to war. In 1946 and 1973 the parliament appointed the president under special laws.
In the first years of Finland's independence Finland had two regents and an elected king, although the latter renounced the throne:
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List of Presidents of Finland