In May 2012, a drunk driver ran into Lapinlahti residents Hanna and Matleena Sonninen while they were riding their bikes. Eleven-year-old Matleena died the next day from the injuries she sustained.
The breathalyzer test showed the driver had a breath alcohol content reading of 2.58. In 2012, a North Savo District Court sentenced the driver to two years and seven months’ imprisonment. After the driver appealed the decision, however, the Eastern Finland Court of Appeals shortened the sentence by five months.
This propelled the girls’ father, Jorma Sonninen, to start collecting signatories to an online citizen’s initiative that he entitled: Drunk-driving penalties must be strengthened.
Finnish citizens have the constitutional right to make an initiative to adjust a parliamentary act. Before a citizen’s initiative can be heard in Parliament, however, at least 50,000 voting-age Finnish citizens must sign on with their support within six months.
By late January, it seemed the initiative would not gather enough signatories to be considered. Then, late in the evening on January 30, the golden 50,000 name limit was broken. Sonninen had been monitoring the situation all day.
“It felt incredible, how the names came pouring in like a landslide,” said Sonninen.
He says the signatory avalanche was due to his daughter Hanna, as she had shared her story with several blog writers and Facebook groups and asked them to spread the work in the social media.
“From there, it spread like wildfire. People took the matter to heart and decided to add their name to the citizens' initiative,” said Sonninen.
The initiative should reach the Finnish Parliament by February 17. Those who still wish to sign the petition can do so online at Kansalaisaloite.fi. The service requires supporters to verify their identity with electronic authentication, i.e. bank ID codes, smart certificate cards or mobile verification.
Any Finnish citizen with the right to vote can support citizens' initiatives.
2 February 2014