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Norway

Norway

5. Participation

5.1 General context

On this page
  1. Main concepts
  2. Institutions of representative democracy

Main concepts

One of the primary goals of the Government’s 2015 plan on child and youth policy initiatives is that all children and young people should be provided with opportunities for participation and influence. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is described as a key tool in promoting children and young people’s participation and influence at all levels. The right to participation should be safeguarded through legislation, planning and policymaking for children and youth.

Institutions of representative democracy

Constitutional structure

Norway is a unitary constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. Power is separated among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government, as defined by the Constitution, which serves as the country's supreme legal document.

Main representative institutions

At the national level, the people are represented by the Storting (Norwegian parliament) which has legislative power. The Government implements the Storting’s decisions and draws up proposals for new laws or law amendments.

Norway has a two-tier subnational government system, composed of 356 municipalities and 11 counties with no hierarchical link and which carry equal rights and responsibilities. The city of Oslo is both a county and a municipality. The Local Government Act sets the basic legal framework for local and regional government. Central government is directly represented at the local level by the office of the county governor.

Currently, municipal functions include education (pre-school, primary and lower-secondary schools), health and social care (care for the elderly, disabled and children, social services, primary health care, housing support, etc.), local roads, utilities (water supply and sewerage, waste), local town planning, environmental protection, culture, firefighting, etc. County responsibilities include regional planning and development, roads and public transport, upper-secondary education, dental health, culture, environmental protection, etc.

Norway also has a separate Parliament for the Sami people: The Sami Parliament [Samediggi – Sametinget]. The Sámediggi is an elected assembly that represents the Sami people in Norway. Thirty-nine members of parliament are elected from seven constituencies every fourth year. The purpose of the Sámediggi is to strengthen the Sami’s political position and promote Sami interests in Norway, contributing to equal and equitable treatment of the Sami people and paving the way for Sami efforts to safeguard and develop their language, culture and society.

Read more about: The Act of 12 June 1987 No. 56 concerning the Sameting (the Sami parliament) and other Sami legal matters (the Sami Act).

Main legal principles concerning elections

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.

Voting in Norway is not compulsory.  Votes are cast by ballot, either on Election Day, or in advance at an official voting locality. It is the municipal authorities that are responsible for receiving the inland advance votes. Norwegian expats may also vote at their local embassy or consulate.

Where an elector who is outside the realm has no possibility of getting to a returning officer, they/she/he may vote by post without the presence of a returning officer at the casting of the ballot. A postal vote is deemed to be relevant only in exceptional cases and for electors who would otherwise not have been able to vote.

Norway has not had a top-level referendum since 1994 (on a potential Norwegian membership of the European Union).