Norway: Old-School Rules! …Or Does It?

A student guest blog on Norway’s constitutional monarchy…I still have a bunch sitting around from  before the summer!

Picture of the Royal Family from

Norway is a constitutional monarchy wherein the king is the head of state, a right passed on by heredity.  The tradition of the monarchy has been around for the last thousand years or so but has changed forms a few times during that time period.  The monarchy as we know it today has existed from 1905, when Norway gained it’s independence from Sweden.  Since 1991, this post has been filled by King Harald V who will be followed by his son Prince Haakon Magnus.  His Majesty is also the head of the Church of Norway, as well as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces.

PM Stotlenberg speaks after the Utoeya shooting in 2011 (story from

Although the King formally presides over the opening of the Storting (the Parliament) with a State of the Realm speech, the actual head of government in Norway’s parliamentary system is the Prime Minister, currently Jens Stoltenberg.  (If you are wondering what the difference between Parliamentary, Presidential and Semi-presidential systems are, you can find the definitions on the Eurobloggers website: The Prime Minister is chosen after parliamentary elections, after the previous Prime Minister has officially handed in his/her resignation to the King and recommended the next Prime Minister.  He or She is usually the leader of the party with a majority, (note: it is a bit difficult to end up with a true majority in a proportional-representation system like Norway’s) or the leader of the majority coalition (a group of political parties who have banded together).  The Prime Minister is officially appointed by the King but traditionally the King chooses to appoint the Prime Minister that Parliament approves of and would have chosen themselves (the last time the King didn’t select the recommended individual was 1928).

The Council of State meets every Friday at eleven and is presided over by the King.  (The Crown Prince is also usually in attendance.)  All legislation, decisions and Royal Decrees that pass through this Council must be sanctioned by the King and signed by the Prime Minister.  However, should the Royal Family be absent (which is rare), the Council then meets in the Prime Minister’ office and informs the King what they have decided without him at the next meeting.

The King is officially the highest ranking officer in the military as a General in the Army, Air Force and an Admiral in the Navy and on very rare occasions, will discuss mattersof defense and deployment with only the Minister of Defense and the Prime Minister.  However, military authority officially lies with the King in Council of State, which means it is the Norwegian Government is ultimately responsible.  In keeping with the idea of sharing this responsibility, the size of the military may not be altered without the Storting’s approval.

Interestingly, the Prime Minister is less powerful in Norway than in other comparable Parliamentary systems, but does comprise one of the highest governmental positions (along with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Finance.)  Although power is distributed throughout the Norwegian government, it is still “good to be King”.



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