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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

One Government Shutdown, Another Government switch-up

So.  The US Government is shut down.

This seems like a good time to explain how the Norwegian system is different (note: I didn't say better... but I, also, didn't say worse).

Norway is a democratic representative constitutional monarchy.  But that's a lot to say.  I just like to refer to it as a Social Democracy.  No.  Not in the way that North Korea or Congo are social democracies, but in the way that produces low unemployment, equal opportunity, and causes people to write articles like this

There's more, but they're not going to factor in much...

Norway, also, has the same three, branches of government:  Judicial, Executive, and Legislative (In the interest of being, well, interesting... I'm going to skip over the Judicial branch as it doesn't differ enough to warrant covering, save for the King, not the President/Prime Minister, having the ultimate "Get out of Jail Free" card)

Here's where things get a little word-y.  Stay with me.
That's what a King is supposed to look like
The Executive branch consists of a (mostly... remember his criminal absolution powers) King and his council of state.  Since I keep talking about him, I should probably mention him by name.  King Harald V is the Norwegian telling you to watch the throne.  He's cool, but his father, Olav V, was a straight G.

Anyway, King Harald V has his council of state (or referred to as King's Council) which consists of the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister's Council (really, the King is just co-opting the Prime Minister's council).  The Prime Minister is appointed by King Harald V (or whoever is the reigning monarch) is like the electoral college in the United States.  He awards the post to whomever is the leader of the party that wins the elections, holds the largest majority in the legislative branch (congress). 

To determine the largest majority, Norwegians go to the polls.  Just like in America, there are national elections every four years here.  In fact, it happened this past month.  Changes were made.

Can I just say how silly I think it is that Norwegians still use paper ballots... They're not voting for Homecoming King and Queen
For the previous eight years, the leading party had been the Arbeiderpartiet (Labor Party).  However, in an effort to dethrone their socially and fiscally-liberal opponents, the Høyre (Conservative) and Fremskrittspartiet (Progressive) parties joined forces.  In Norwegian politics, two parties can form a "coalition" and, in essence, they join forces (like a Portuguese Man-of-War) to gain more power in the political spectrum.

That's exactly what happened.

While the Labor Party maintained an overall advantage in the congress with 55 seats (garnered by gaining 30.8% of the vote), they lost nine seats (as they had 35.4% of the vote last election).  Those seats went to the Conservative party, who saw a gain of almost 10% (17.2 to 26.8%).  The Conservatives didn't bring much help as they lost twelve seats and six percentage points (22.9 to 16.3%).

Why the change?  It has little to do with the economy as Norway is humming along.  It was a variety of issues but, from my outsider viewpoint, it seemed to be a sense of fatigue.  The Labor Party had been running the show for eight years and people were ready for a change.  However, a change for changes' sake can be dangerous, especially when the party is talking about a "restoration of public trust" and "maximizing wealth for all it's citizens".  I know from personal experience.

Now.  I know what you're thinking.  Would this be like the Republicans and Tea Party beating the Democrats in America?  Not exactly.  While most Norwegians will be quick to note that all of their political parties would be "Democrats" in America, I think that isn't entirely the case as some parties have radically different views from one another (most notably Progressive and Conservative with regards to oil exploration, both are "drill, baby, drill!" and immigration, best not to bring this up, would definitely raise some eyebrows in the donkey party).

Regardless, there will be a change (I'm not just talking about the appointing of the second, female Prime Minister in the Conservative Party's Erna Solberg).

Ariel/immigrants are in trouble!
I guess I should probably run down the other parties...

The Conservative/Progressive coalition can't do it all on their own.  While they'll be the ones running the various ministries, they will be joined by two, non-socialist parties, Kristelig Folkeparti (Christian Democratic Party... Norway has a State Church who the King is upheld with protecting) and Venstre (Central Liberalism) in order to get majority votes on various bills/issues in the congress.

Opposing them, in addition to the Labor Party, is Socialistisk Venstreparti (Socialist Left), the EU-hating SenterParty (Center Liberalism), and Grønne (Green Party).

Additionally, there's a lot of other parties that have little to no parliament representation that, again, I'll skip over.  

Will much change?

Hard to say.  While the Conservative/Progressive have a lot of big ideas, the losses suffered by the Progressives in the elections will ensure that they'll need to compromise in order to get things accomplished.  Before the handover of power, outgoing Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, in addition to driving a taxi, issued one of Norway's many debt-cancellations (Norway loves to forgive debt).  The sovereign wealth fund is a good problem to have, yet still a problem.

Though, despite how things go, it will not end in a government shutdown.  Norwegians, while passionate, determined, and, at times, stubborn, have a general sense of community and the common good over one's own self.  Regardless of your ideas of how to best help your countrymen, its understood here that you have to actually listen and compromise to help anyone. 

It is one of the ways where American individualism is detrimental (and one of the ways where Jante Law is beneficial).

Oh well.  Sorry for the billion hyperlinks.


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