Norway - Government

Norway is a constitutional monarchy. The constitution of 17 May 1814, as subsequently amended, vests executive power in the king and legislative power in the Storting. Prior to 1990, sovereignty descended to the eldest son of the monarch. A constitutional amendment in May 1990 allows females to succeed to the throne. The amendment only affects those born after 1990. The sovereign must be a member of the Evangelican Lutheran Church of Norway, which he heads. Royal power is exercised through a cabinet (the Council of State), consisting of a prime minister and at least seven other ministers of state (these numbered 19 in 2003). Since the introduction of parliamentary rule in 1884, the Storting has become the supreme authority, with sole control over finances and with power to override the king's veto under a specified procedure. While the king is theoretically free to choose his own cabinet, in practice the Storting selects the ministers, who must resign if the Storting votes no confidence.

The Storting is made up of 165 representatives from 19 counties. Election for a four-year term is by direct suffrage at age 18, on the basis of proportional representation. After election, the Storting divides into two sections by choosing one-fourth of its members to form the upper chamber Lagting , with the rest constituting the lower chamber Odelsting . The Odelsting deals with certain types of bills (chiefly proposed new laws) after the committee stage and forwards them to the Lagting, which, after approval, sends them to the king for the royal assent; financial, organizational, political, and other matters are dealt with in plenary session. Where the two sections disagree, a two-thirds majority of the full Storting is required for passage. Constitutional amendments also require a two-thirds vote. The constitution provides that the Storting may not be dissolved.

A special parliamentary ombudsman supervises the observance of laws and statutes as applied by the courts and by public officials. His main responsibility is to protect citizens against unjust or arbitrary treatment by civil servants.

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