1.1 General description and key data of the constitutional system

The Kingdom of Norway covers 324 000 sq. km land area excluding 63 000 sq. km belonging to the Artic archipelago of Jan Mayen and Svalbard (Spitzbegen). Totally 4 700 000 (2007) inhabitants populate the area of the country.

Three basic principles are integrated in the constitution of this state:

(1) The Principle of Sovereignty of the People underlines that the people of a nation are entitled to govern themselves. People's will should, through the election of representatives, determine the action of the governing power as these representatives in governing power should govern on behalf of the people.

 The electoral system is based on the principle of direct election, proportional representation and voting by secret ballot. This ballot is a vote for a list of representatives from a political party. The names on the party list are candidates representing the particular party within one constituency. There are 19 Counties under the municipal division, subsequently named County Municipalities, which constitute these constituencies. Candidates on the party lists have been chosen on the nomination conventions of each party. Elections for the Parliament (Stortinget) of totally 169 seats or elected members take place every forth year. Of the total number of seats 150 constituency representatives are elected while another group of 19 representatives are distributed equally after the election according to number of votes. One political party must have at least 4 per cent of the votes in order to obtain representatives of the first kind. Outside the general election year there is no opportunity to call for a new election or to dissolve the assembly of the Parliament.

The Principle of Sovereignty is the leading principle behind the particular rights of the Saami people to participate in matters concerning their own language, culture and social life. In 1987 the Saami Parliment was established according to the Saami Parliament Act. This law extended the civil rights of Saami population to take part in public decisions regarding the customary rights and interests of this group of Norwegian citizens. The Saami Parliament replaced the former Norwegian Saami Board. It consists of Saami elected representatives politically nominated from the Saami population according to the registered Saami electorate for the whole country. However, the constituencies of this electorate are delineated differently from the constituencies of the national parliament, due to the number of Saami inhabitants, their systems of local rights and the division of Saami languages. There are in total 13 constituencies, of which 6 in Finnmark County and 3 in Troms County. The border of the South-Saami Constituency includes two counties (North- and South-Trøndelag) and municipalities from two other counties, Nordland and Hedmark. The rest of Nordland County comprise 2 constituencies and the main part of the South-Norwegian land area another one. There should be 3 representatives from each constituency. In addition 4 representatives from the 4 constituencies having gained the largest number of votes are distributed to the total number of 43 seats after the election. There are in total 13 constituencies, of which 6 in Finnmark County and 3 in Troms County. The border of the South-Saami Constituency includes two counties (North- and South-Trøndelag) and municipalities from two other counties, Nordland and Hedmark. The rest of Nordland County comprise 2 constituencies and the main part of the South-Norwegian land area another one. There should be 3 representatives from each constituency. In addition 4 representatives from the 4 constituencies having gained the largest number of votes are distributed to the total number of 43 seats after the election.

The right to vote to the Saami Parliament has everybody who has the right to vote for municipal elections and is registered in the Saami electorate of the actual constituency. Election for the parliament takes place every forth year on the same day as the ordinary election for the National Parliament. The free right to organize political parties guarantees the Saami population to establish their own political parties. Should there be more than one list of electives within a constituency to the Saami Parliament the number of representatives are calculated according to the amount of votes for each list.

(2) The Principle of the Separation of Powers distinguishes between three categories of powers, which in terms of government should be acting independently of each other in order to keep checks and balances:

  • The legislative power together with powers in matters concerning financing and planning of the State activities belong to the Parliament.
  • The executive power is under the rule of the Government, or initially of the King. A parliamentary system is practiced. In principle a majority of seats in the Parliament decides who will be in a position to establish a new Government. In reality it means that a sitting Government can continue to rule as long as it is not formally opposed by a majority of seats in the Parliament.
  • The judicial power is a part of the government system and belongs to the courts.

(3) The Principle of Human Rights comprises the rights of freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom of assembly and the rule of law. Since the Saami language is recognized as equal to Norwegian, the Saami population has the right to express themselves in their local language and should have duly answers in their own language, whether in legislative, executive or judicial matters.