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The Finnish Parliament has two hundred members, who are elected for a term of four years. Members belong to parliamentary groups, of which there are currently eight. For the purposes of parliamentary elections, the country has been divided into 13 electoral districts. A number of representatives proportional to the number of Finnish citizens residing in the electoral district six months prior to the elections are elected from each electoral district. However, from the electoral district of Åland is always elected one representative.
A Member of Parliament is a legislator, a wielder of social influence, a representative of an electoral district and an international actor. Although a large part of a Member's week is spent in committees and plenary sessions, Parliament is not the only place where Members work. An MP represents an electoral district as well as a political party and is expected to keep up with regional matters. Electoral districts are drawn so that sparsely populated areas are also represented in Parliament.
The plenary session is the most visible aspect of an MP's job. It is a key arena of legislative work and timely political debate. In the spring and autumn terms Parliament meets in plenary session four times a week, Tuesday through Friday.
In a plenary session Members give speeches from a rostrum. From their own seats they can speak for a maximum of two minutes. Members are allowed to speak in the order in which they have requested the floor. Members requesting the floor during a session speak after those who have reserved turns at the rostrum in advance.
Committees are the most important channel through which Members can wield influence, since this is where all of Parliament's decisions are prepared. After a preliminary debate in plenary session, a government proposal is referred to the relevant committee. For instance, legislation concerning schools is referred to the Education and Culture Committee and tax legislation to the Finance Committee.
In a committee Members can hear experts who evaluate the impacts of proposed legislation. These can be representatives of NGOs or lobbying organisations, university researchers or civil servants working at a ministry or agency, for example. By asking questions Members can get a very detailed picture of legislation and if necessary recommend changes in provisions. Most MPs work in two different committees.
Practically every MP has duties related to parliamentary work that require travel abroad. Parliament elects Finland's representatives to international organisations such as the Nordic Council, the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE. The committees familiarise themselves with legislation in their field in other countries. International organisations also ask MPs to monitor elections in other countries.
Nowadays reading and answering e-mails takes an increasing amount of MPs' time. To keep in touch with voters they have to tour their electoral districts and meet voters who come to Helsinki to visit Parliament. Many MPs are actively involved in local politics as well.
Although parliamentary work mainly focuses on considering government proposals, individual Members can call for Parliament to consider matters through legislative motions, budgetary motions and petitionary motions. MPs can also present oral and written questions to the Government and submit interpellations.
Legislative motions concern the enactment of new legislation or the amendment or repeal of existing legislation. They are considered by Parliament in the same order as bills submitted in a government proposal. Budgetary motions call for an appropriation to be added to or stricken from the budget or for some other decision regarding the budget. Petitionary motions contain a proposal for the drafting of legislation or for taking other measures.
At question time MPs can ask ministers about the Government's actions and criticise its policies. Parliament does not vote on matters during question time.
Members can also submit written questions to the minister responsible for a particular matter, who must reply within 21 days after the question has been received by the Prime Minister's Office.
With the backing of at least 20 MPs the opposition can submit an interpellation in order to measure confidence in the Government or a particular minister. The Government must reply to an interpellation in plenary session within 15 days. After hearing the reply Parliament debates the matter and then votes on whether the Government or a minister enjoys its confidence.