Norway - Politics

Politics

Main article: Politics of Norway See also: Norwegian parliamentary election, 2009

According to the Constitution of Norway, which was adopted on 16 May 1814 and inspired by the United States Declaration of Independence and French Revolution of 1776 and 1789, respectively, Norway is a unitary constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government, wherein the King of Norway is the head of state and the Prime Minister is the head of government. Power is separated between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, as defined by the Constitution, which serves as the country's supreme legal document.

The Monarch officially retains executive power, however, following the introduction of a parliamentary system of government, the duties of the Monarch have since become strictly representative and ceremonial, such as the formal appointment and dismissal of the Prime Minister and other ministers in the executive government. Accordingly, the Monarch is commander-in-chief of the Norwegian armed forces, and serves as chief diplomatic official abroad and a symbol of unity.

In practice, it is the Prime Minister who is responsible for the exercise of executive powers. Since his accession in 1991, Harald V of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg has been King of Norway, the first since the 14th century who has actually been born in the country. Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway is the legal and rightful heir to the throne and the Kingdom.

Constitutionally, legislative power is vested with both the government and the Parliament of Norway, but the latter is the supreme legislature and a unicameral body. A proposition can become a law or an act by simple majority amongst the 150 representatives, who are elected on the basis of proportional representation from 19 constituencies for four-year terms. An additional 19 seats ("levelling seats") are allocated on a nationwide basis to make the representation in parliament correspond better with the popular vote.

As a result, there are currently 169 Members of Parliament altogether. There is also a 4% election threshold to gain levelling seats in Parliament. As such, Norway is fundamentally structured as a representative democracy. Effectively called the Stortinget, meaning Grand Assembly, members of Parliament ratify treaties and can impeach members of the government if their acts are declared unconstitutional, and as such have the power to remove them from office in case of an impeachment trial.

The position of Prime Minister, Norway's head of government, is allocated to the Member of Parliament who can obtain the confidence of a majority in Parliament, usually the current leader of the largest political party or more effectively through a coalition of parties, as a single party normally does not have the support to form a government on its own. However, Norway has often been ruled by minority governments.

The Prime Minister nominates the Cabinet, traditionally drawn from members of the same political party in the Storting, to which they are responsible, and as such forms the executive government and exercises power vested to them by the Constitution. In order to form a government, however, more than half the membership of the Cabinet is required to belong to the Church of Norway. Currently, this means at least ten out of the 19 ministries. This has sparked controversy regarding an ongoing debate of separation of church and state in Norway. The current Prime Minister is Jens Stoltenberg, the leader of the Norwegian Labour Party (AP).

Through the Council of State, a privy council presided over by the Monarch, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet meet at the Royal Palace and formally consult the Monarch. Besides enacting parliamentary bills, all government bills need the formal approval by the Monarch before and after introduction to Parliament. Approval is also given by the Council to all of the Monarch's actions as head of state. Although all government and parliamentary acts are decided beforehand, the privy council is an example of another symbolic gesture the King obtains.

Members of the Storting are directly elected from party-lists proportional representation in nineteen plural-member constituencies in a national multi-party system. Historically, both the Norwegian Labour Party and Conservative Party have played leading political roles, while the former has remained in power since the 2005 election, in a Red-Green Coalition with the Socialist Left Party and the Centre Party.

Since then, both the Conservative Party and the Progress Party have won great amount of seats in the Parliament, however, as of the 2009 general election, not sufficient enough to overthrow the coalition. This has been the result of poor cooperation between the opposition parties, including the Liberal Party and the Christian Democratic Party. As such, Jens Stoltenberg, the leader of the Labour Party, remains Prime Minister of Norway with the necessary majority attributed to the alliance with the Socialist Left and Centre parties.

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