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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.

As Head of State, the King is the unifying symbol of all state authority. The functions of the king are mainly ceremonial, but he has influence as the symbol of national unity. 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. Although the 1814 constitution grants important executive powers to the king, these are almost always exercised by the Council of Ministers in the name of the king (King's Council). The Council of Ministers consists of a prime minister--chosen by the political parties represented in the Storting--and other ministers. 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.

There are 169 seats or members of the Storting, and general elections are held every four years. The Storting cannot be dissolved, and there is no opportunity to call for new elections within the four-year election term. There are no by-elections. The 169 members of the Storting are elected from 19 fylker (counties) for 4-year terms according to a complicated system of proportional representation. 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.

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 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.

The special High Court of the Realm hears impeachment cases; the regular courts include the Supreme Court (18 permanent judges and a president), courts of appeal, city and county courts, the labor court, and conciliation councils. Judges attached to regular courts are appointed by the king in council after nomination by the Ministry of Justice.

Each fylke (county) is headed by a governor appointed by the king in council, with one governor exercising authority in both Oslo and the adjacent county of Akershus.

The Norwegian electoral system is based on the principles of direct election and proportional representation in multi-member electoral divisions. Direct election means that the electors vote directly for representatives of their constituency by giving their vote to an electoral list. Proportional representation means that the representatives are distributed according to the relationship to one another of the individual electoral lists in terms of the number of votes they have received. Both political parties and other groups can put up lists at elections.

In the case of parliamentary elections the country is divided into 19 constituencies corresponding to the counties, including the municipal authority of Oslo which is a county of its own. The number of members returned to the Storting is 169. The number of members to be returned from each constituency depends on the population and area of the county.

Political parties which so wish may apply to be included in the Register of Political Parties. This register is kept by the Registry Unit in Brønnøysund. Registration is not a requirement for participation in the election. However, by registering a party secures the sole right to submit a list under the registered name of the party. The Representation of the People Act also has provisions that offer certain advantages to parties that are included in the Register of Political Parties when it comes to signatures on the list proposals. In the case of parliamentary elections only registered political parties may be allocated seats at large.

The conditions to become a registered political party are stated in the law of 17 June 2005 concerning certain conditions for the political parties. Together with its application for registration, a party must enclose a transcript of the minute book for the meeting at which the party was constituted, information concerning the persons who have been elected to membership of the party's executive body and who are empowered to represent the party centrally in matters coming under the Representation of the People Act, its Articles of Association laying down which body in the party elects the executive body, and a declaration from no fewer than 5000 persons entitled to vote at parliamentary elections that they wish to have the name of the party registered.

Both registered political parties and other groups can put up lists at elections. The procedure is that they produce proposals for electoral lists, which are then subject to the approval of the electoral authorities. A list proposal contains the names of the candidates standing for election for the party/group. The list proposal constitutes the basis of what becomes the ballot paper of the party/group.

The system is based on the principle that members' seats shall be allocated proportionally to the parties/groups according to the votes cast for the individual electoral list. This principle is called proportional representation. The allocation of seats to the different lists is carried out by means of the same mathematical method for both parliamentary and local government elections. This method is called Sainte-Laguë's modified method. This means that the number of votes polled by the individual list is first divided by the figure 1.4 and thereafter by the figures 3, 5, 7, 9 etc. By means of these divisions a number of figures are arrived at, quotients, as they are called.

The Ministry of Government Administration, Reform and Church Affairs is coordinating ministry for the government's reform efforts. The Ministry is responsible for the provision of public subsidies to the political parties and the Act concerning these. The act includes provisions for registering a political party and transparency requirements concerning the parties' book keeping accounts. The Ministry of Government Administration, Reform and Church Affairs was established 1 January 2010. The ministry is contact ministry for the Royal Court. It carries responsibility for a number of state and government common services.

By the legislation of 1907 Norway became the first of European nations to confer upon women, under any conditions, the privilege of voting for members of the national legislative body and of sitting as members of that body. At the elections of 1909, the first in which women participated, no revolutionizing effects were observed. The electorate, however, was increased by approximately 300,000, which was somewhat over half of the kingdom's total female population of the requisite age.1 April 30, 1910, the Constitutional Committee of the Storthing, by a majority of four to three, recommended that parliamentary suffrage be extended to women on equal terms with men, i. e., without reference to tax-paying qualifications.

On 08 June 2017, the Norwegian Storting (Parliament) enacted the most comprehensive administrative reorganization of the country since the late 17th century. The 19 current fylker (counties) were reorganized into 11 regions, effective in 2020. Some of the new regions were unchanged and some were merged fylker, in some cases corresponding to the historical divisions of Amt (county) used until 1918 and Len (Swedish for county). The new names of the regions may be unchanged or new.

Viken was the merger of Akershus, Buskerud, and Østfold counties. Innlandet was a merger of Hedmark and Oppland counties, corresponding to historical Oplandenes Amt. Vestfold-Telemark was the merger of Telemark and Vestfold counties. Agder was the merger of Aust-Agder and Vest-Agder counties, corresponding to historical Agdesiden Len. Vestland, a merger of Hordaland and Sogn & Fjordane counties, corresponds to historical Bergenhus Amt. Trøndelag, a merger of Sør-Trøndelag and Nord-Trøndelag counties, corresponding to historical Trondhjems Amt. Troms and Finnmark is a merger of Troms and Finnmark counties, corresponding to historical Finnmarkens Amt.

Norway Counties - Pre 2020 Norway Regions - 2020

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Page last modified: 24-02-2020 18:18:18 ZULU