Change of Government in Norway

A government must have its basis in the Norwegian Parliament, the Storting. The Storting majority thus has a decisive influence on the formation and the dismissal of  governments.

A new government is formed when a prime minister in office has submitted his or her application for the Government to resign, and the King has instructed another person to form a new government.

When a prime minister no longer considers the government's basis in the Storting to be present, the government will tender its resignation. The situation may arise when a government has received a vote of no confidence in the Storting, when a government has demanded a vote of confidence and lost, when the government party/parties have suffered an election defeat or lost an important referendum, or when the internal cooperation in a government has caused a shift of government.

After an election it is normally only when the new parliament has been assembled and the incumbent government’s budget proposal has been presented, that a government may tender its resignation with reference to the outcome of the election.

Constitutional practice emerging in Norway in the period 1884-1905 has given the following general rules for a change of government:

  • The country is never without a government. In other words, the King is never without his council, the Council of State.
  • The King does not approve a government’s application to resign until a new government can simultaneously be appointed.
  • The King appoints a new government “in Council”, i.e. in a Council of State session together with the outgoing Government.

 On the basis of this, a change of government proceeds as follows:

  1. After the Storting (Parliament) has been informed, the Government’s application to resign is submitted in a regular or extraordinary session of the Council of State.

    Once the application has been received, the King requests the outgoing Government to continue as a caretaker government until a new government can be formed. The King will then normally ask the outgoing Prime Minister for advice as to who he should approach with regard to forming a new government.

  2. The outgoing Prime Minister will normally advise the King to approach one of the leaders in the Storting – the leader of the largest party or the largest opposition party. The Prime Minister may also advise the King to approach all parliamentary leaders or the President of the Storting. The King will normally follow the Prime Minister’s advice and summon the person(s) concerned to the Royal Palace.

  3. When the person who has been instructed by the King to seek to form a new government, informs him that a government is ready to be appointed, both of the necessary decisions regarding a change of government are made in a session of the Council of State – regular or extraordinary depending on the circumstances. This is the last Council of State session attended by the outgoing Government.

    In this session of the Council of State, the King and the outgoing Government appoint the new Government, with effect from a specified point in time. At the same time the King accepts the outgoing Government’s resignation, with effect from the same point in time. This point in time, normally a few hours later, is the exact time for the change of government.

    After their last meeting of the Council of State, the members of the outgoing Government return to their ministries for the last time, after having met the general public and the press outside the entrance to the Royal Palace.

  4. At the exact time for the change of government the new Government – already appointed by the King and the outgoing Government - will come to the Royal Palace for their first Council of State session. Their first decisions will be on which minister is to head which ministry.

    After their first Council of State session, and after having met the general public and the press outside the entrance to the Royal Palace, the members of the new Government will go to their respective ministries for the first time. There they meet their predecessors, who have now resigned, for a simple handing-over ceremony. The members of the previous government then leave their offices for the last time.