Article | Last updated: 2014-09-12
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.
Separation of powers
As Head of State, the King is the unifying symbol of all state authority. 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. 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.
How is the Government chosen?
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.
Majority, minority, coalition and one-party governments
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
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.