How is Norway governed?
According to the Constitution, which was adopted in 1814, Norway is a monarchy in which the power is divided between three branches: a legislative branch which is also responsible for appropriations, the Storting; an executive branch, the Government; and a judicial branch, the courts of law.
Separation of powers
As Head of State, the King is the unifying symbol of all state authority. He opens each new session of the Storting; he presides over meetings of the Council of State and approves all decisions made there; he is the host when other Heads of State make official visits to Norway and himself makes state visits to other countries. Until the introduction of parliamentarianism in 1884, a government remained in office as long as the King wished; since then governments have been dependent on having the confidence of the Storting
How is the Government chosen?
The Government is formed by the party/parties that have a majority of the seats in the Storting or constitute a minority capable of governing. Thus the Government is indirectly selected by the electorate. This means that a general election can lead to a change of government, but not necessarily. It also means that there can be a change of government other than in connection with a general election if a situation should arise where the Government no longer has the confidence of the Storting.
Majority, minority, coalition and one-party governments
Sometimes a government has the support of a majority in the Storting (a majority government). Other times governments are formed that can only count on the support of a minority in the Storting. Such minority governments must seek the support of other parties in the Storting on a case-to-case basis in order to have their proposals adopted. Irrespective of the support a particular government enjoys in the Storting, it can be a one-party or a multi-party (coalition) government.
The Office of the Prime Minister and the ministries
The Office of the Prime Minister and the ministries serve the Government and are headed by the Prime Minister and the various ministers, respectively. The Office of the Prime Minister assists the Prime Minister in coordinating the work of the Government and can thus be regarded as a central office for the entire Government. The ministries assist the ministers in running the various sectors of the government administration.
Executive power is exercised through a three-tier administrative system, the central/national level, the regional/county level, and the local/municipal level.
Stortinget and the National Government
Norway's national assembly, called Stortinget, consists of 169 representatives elected for a period of 4 years. The majority party or coalition of parties forms the Government. There may also be a minority government. The King appoints the Prime Minister. The distribution of representatives from the 19 counties (in 2019 and 11 counties from 2020 on) is determined by election regulations. Ten political parties are represented in the Norwegian national assembly since the legislative election in 2021. Listed in order of the number of representatives after the 2021 parliamentary election, they are: The Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet) (48 representatives), The Conservative Party (Høyre) (36 representatives), The Centre Party (Senterpartiet) (28 representatives), The Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet) (21 representatives), The Socialist Left Party (Sosialistisk Venstreparti) (13 representatives), the Communist Party (Rødt) (8 representatives), The Liberal Party (Venstre) (8 representatives), The Christian Democratic Party (Kristelig Folkeparti) (3 representatives), The Green Party (Miljøpartiet de grønne) (3 representatives), and Patient Focus (Pasientfokus) (1 representative).
The Conservative Party and the Progress Party have formed the Government since the 2013 election. After 2017 these two parties have been joined, first by the Liberal Party, and then by the Christian Democratic Party (22. January 2019) to form the first right-liberal majority government since 1985. After the 2021 elections, the Labour Party and the Centre Party formed a new minority Government.
The responsibilities of the Ministry of Education and Research are:
- 13-year education and training system provided by primary and secondary schools
- Folk high schools and adults’ rights to basic education
- Higher education and tertiary vocational training
- Student welfare and student grants
- Coordinating research policy
- Adult education, skills and lifelong learning
Norway has a two tier-system of local government: the municipalities and the county authorities. Both at the municipal level and at the county level there are elections with popular representatives responsible to their constituents. There are 356 municipalities and 11 county authorities in 2021. The capital, Oslo, is formally a municipality, but in addition has the same tasks as the county authorities. The municipalities and the county authorities have the same administrative status, whereas central government has the overriding authority and supervision of municipal and county municipal administration. The main representative of the central government supervising local authorities is the County Governor.
Norway has 5,3 million inhabitants. Both the municipalities and the county authorities vary significantly in size, topography and population. 7,5% of the population live in municipalities with less than 5 000 inhabitants and 19 have more than 50 000 inhabitants. By 1. January 2021, the largest municipality is Oslo with 697 028 inhabitants and the smallest is Utsira with 190 inhabitants. Despite such differences, all municipalities are given most of the same rights and the same responsibilities.
The county authorities’ responsibilities
- Upper secondary school
- Regional development
- County roads and public transport
- Regional planning
- Business development
- Culture (museums, libraries, sports)
- Cultural heritage
- Environmental issues
The municipalities’ responsibilities
- Primary and lower secondary school
- Primary healthcare
- Care for the elderly and disabled, social services
- Local planning, agricultural issues, environmental issues, local roads, harbours
- Water supply, sanitation and sewer
- Culture and business development