Norway

   

Quality of Democracy

#3
Key Findings
With strong outcomes in nearly every category, Norway falls into the top group worldwide (rank 3) with regard to the quality of democracy. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

The country’s electoral processes are free and fair. Political-party financing is mostly public, with strong reporting requirements. The media are independent, showing considerable plurality of opinion, but digital media and particularly social media platforms are drawing audiences and advertising away from traditional media. Access to government information is broad.

Civil rights and political liberties receive strong protections, and gender-equality provisions are robust. The #MeToo campaign disclosed instances of gender-based discrimination. Some labor-market discrimination against immigrants persists, despite being illegal. The legal system is transparent, predictable and respected, but can be very slow.

Corruption is rare, with considerable social stigma attached. However, some corruption related to overseas Norwegian business activities has emerged in recent years.

Electoral Processes

#15

How fair are procedures for registering candidates and parties?

10
 9

Legal regulations provide for a fair registration procedure for all elections; candidates and parties are not discriminated against.
 8
 7
 6


A few restrictions on election procedures discriminate against a small number of candidates and parties.
 5
 4
 3


Some unreasonable restrictions on election procedures exist that discriminate against many candidates and parties.
 2
 1

Discriminating registration procedures for elections are widespread and prevent a large number of potential candidates or parties from participating.
Candidacy Procedures
10
Procedures for registering candidates and political parties are considered to be fair, and have not been questioned or debated publicly in recent years. No candidate or party faces discrimination. The only requirement for starting a party is that at least 5,000 signatures from Norwegian citizens who have the right to vote must be collected. Parties nominate candidates.

To what extent do candidates and parties have fair access to the media and other means of communication?

10
 9

All candidates and parties have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. All major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of the range of different political positions.
 8
 7
 6


Candidates and parties have largely equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. The major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of different political positions.
 5
 4
 3


Candidates and parties often do not have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. While the major media outlets represent a partisan political bias, the media system as a whole provides fair coverage of different political positions.
 2
 1

Candidates and parties lack equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communications. The major media outlets are biased in favor of certain political groups or views and discriminate against others.
Media Access
8
Candidates and parties are free to purchase political advertising in print publications and on the internet. Advertisements from political parties are not allowed on television or radio. This ban has been subject to some controversy, with the populist Progress Party advocating a removal of the restriction. The other political parties are opposed to changing the law.

Television and radio broadcasters, both public and private, organize many electoral debates, to which all major parties (those with a vote share larger than 3% in the previous election) have fair access. There is no direct government interference in choosing the teams of journalists that conduct debates. In general, however, representatives of the larger parties are interviewed more often and participate in more debates than do small-party candidates. Political advertising during election campaigns is extensively regulated to ensure that voters are aware of sources.

The Norwegian media landscape is rapidly changing as digital media replaces print media, which is struggling to survive. In parallel, traditional media houses see that revenues from ads are moving away from Norway to global companies (e.g., Google and Facebook) which contribute little in terms of tax revenues and the promotion of Norwegian culture and language.

To what extent do all citizens have the opportunity to exercise their right of participation in national elections?

10
 9

All adult citizens can participate in national elections. All eligible voters are registered if they wish to be. There are no discriminations observable in the exercise of the right to vote. There are no disincentives to voting.
 8
 7
 6


The procedures for the registration of voters and voting are for the most part effective, impartial and nondiscriminatory. Citizens can appeal to courts if they feel being discriminated. Disincentives to voting generally do not constitute genuine obstacles.
 5
 4
 3


While the procedures for the registration of voters and voting are de jure non-discriminatory, isolated cases of discrimination occur in practice. For some citizens, disincentives to voting constitute significant obstacles.
 2
 1

The procedures for the registration of voters or voting have systemic discriminatory effects. De facto, a substantial number of adult citizens are excluded from national elections.
Voting and Registration Rights
10
All Norwegian citizens who are 18 years old or older have the right to vote in parliamentary elections. In local elections, permanent residents who have resided in Norway for at least five years have the right to vote. There is no requirement of prior registration. Each eligible citizen receives a voting card sent by mail. It is possible to vote before the election through the post or at specific locations, including at Norwegian embassies abroad. There has been no allegation from any political party that the electoral process is not inclusive. Election turnout is high and discrimination is rarely reported. Young voters “learn” voting behavior in schools by participating in a school vote prior to reaching the age of voting eligibility. Some municipalities have experimented with a voting age of 16 in local elections.

To what extent is private and public party financing and electoral campaign financing transparent, effectively monitored and in case of infringement of rules subject to proportionate and dissuasive sanction?

10
 9

The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring to that respect. Effective measures to prevent evasion are effectively in place and infringements subject to effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.
 8
 7
 6


The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring. Although infringements are subject to proportionate sanctions, some, although few, loopholes and options for circumvention still exist.
 5
 4
 3


The state provides that donations to political parties shall be published. Party financing is subject to some degree of independent monitoring but monitoring either proves regularly ineffective or proportionate sanctions in case of infringement do not follow.
 2
 1

The rules for party and campaign financing do not effectively enforce the obligation to make the donations public. Party and campaign financing is neither monitored independently nor, in case of infringements, subject to proportionate sanctions.
Party Financing
9
Funding for political parties in Norway is predominantly public. On average, parties receive about three-quarters of their revenues through state subventions (ranging from 60% to 80%). Membership fees are now an insignificant source of party finances. Parties also receive private donations; for example, the Labor Party receives funds from particular trade unions, while the Conservative Party receives donations from individuals and business organizations. State support for parties is proportionate to the results of the last-held election, but even parties not represented in parliament have access to state support.

Since 1998, political parties have been obliged to publish an overview of the source of their revenues, with detailed reports required since 2005. Thus, all party organizations, central and local, are today obliged to submit detailed income reports, with full information on the source of income, on an annual basis. Information on contributions of NOK 30,000 or more must be provided separately, with the identity of the donor included. Income reports are submitted to the Central Bureau of Statistics and are published in detail. A new provision under consideration as of the time of writing would obliges parties to report expenditures, property holdings and debt as well as income.

Do citizens have the opportunity to take binding political decisions when they want to do so?

10
 9

Citizens have the effective opportunity to actively propose and take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through popular initiatives and referendums. The set of eligible issues is extensive, and includes national, regional, and local issues.
 8
 7
 6


Citizens have the effective opportunity to take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through either popular initiatives or referendums. The set of eligible issues covers at least two levels of government.
 5
 4
 3


Citizens have the effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure. The set of eligible issues is limited to one level of government.
 2
 1

Citizens have no effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure.
Popular Decision-Making
2
Government decision-making is inclusive in that organized interests have access to and are incorporated in regular processes of planning and implementation. The system makes no provision for direct citizen participation in the form of legally binding public votes or citizen referendum initiatives. Referendums have been used, but only in exceptional issues (the last time in the vote on European Union membership in 1994), and even then are constitutionally only consultative (through in practice are treated as binding).

Access to Information

#2

To what extent are the media independent from government?

10
 9

Public and private media are independent from government influence; their independence is institutionally protected and fully respected by the incumbent government.
 8
 7
 6


The incumbent government largely respects the independence of media. However, there are occasional attempts to exert influence.
 5
 4
 3


The incumbent government seeks to ensure its political objectives indirectly by influencing the personnel policies, organizational framework or financial resources of public media, and/or the licensing regime/ market access for private media.
 2
 1

Major media outlets are frequently influenced by the incumbent government promoting its partisan political objectives. To ensure pro-government media reporting, governmental actors exert direct political pressure and violate existing rules of media regulation or change them to benefit their interests.
Media Freedom
9
Norway’s dominant TV and radio corporation is state-owned, but the media market is also populated by significant private TV and radio stations. Newspapers are entirely in private hands, but receive state support. The state-owned broadcaster (NRK) is organized in a way that ensures considerable autonomy. The NRK is independent in its editorial policy, and the government does not intervene in the organization’s daily practices or editorial decisions. However, since NRK is a non-commercial actor, it is largely financed by a fee that is compulsory for all citizens who have a television. The amount of the fee is set by parliament. The head of NRK reports to a board of directors. Board members are appointed by the government. An institution called the Broadcasting Council (Kringkastingsrådet) plays an oversight role, monitoring, debating and expressing views about the management and activities of the state-funded broadcast media. It can also provide advice on administrative and economic issues. The issues debated by the council can originate with the chairman of the state broadcasting organization or from the public (often in the form of criticism and complaints). The opinions expressed by the Kringkastingsrådet carry substantial weight, and recommendations from this council are usually implemented. Eight council members are appointed by the parliament, and an additional six by the government.

Newspapers are free from any government interference. The freedom of the press is explicitly guaranteed in the constitution; the constitutional article addressing press freedoms was amended and strengthened with a constitutional amendment in 2004.

Increased numbers of competing digital publications and other changes in the media world have burdened many of the media houses. Some major media houses have experimented with new combinations of marketing and journalism that might in the long run undermine consumers’ faith in the independence of journalism. New technology is rapidly changing the media landscape, drawing audiences away from TV and newspapers to digital media. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Google increasingly draw advertisement revenues away from traditional media in Norway and elsewhere. Concerns about the long-term impact of this shift have increased. In addition, there are pressures to reduce state aid to media (pressestøtte). In sum, these factors might over time undermine the quality of the media and reduce its capability to engage in high-quality reporting.

To what extent are the media characterized by an ownership structure that ensures a pluralism of opinions?

10
 9

Diversified ownership structures characterize both the electronic and print media market, providing a well-balanced pluralism of opinions. Effective anti-monopoly policies and impartial, open public media guarantee a pluralism of opinions.
 8
 7
 6


Diversified ownership structures prevail in the electronic and print media market. Public media compensate for deficiencies or biases in private media reporting by representing a wider range of opinions.
 5
 4
 3


Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize either the electronic or the print media market. Important opinions are represented but there are no or only weak institutional guarantees against the predominance of certain opinions.
 2
 1

Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize both the electronic and the print media market. Few companies dominate the media, most programs are biased, and there is evidence that certain opinions are not published or are marginalized.
Media Pluralism
9
The state-owned broadcast channels control dominant shares of the country’s TV and radio audiences. There are two private TV channels and various private radio channels, including local radio stations. The government does not interfere with the daily activities of the private media, but does monitor to ensure that they comply with their contractual obligations, which for national channels includes broadcasting throughout the entire country. A special body called the Norwegian Media Authority (Medietilsynet) is responsible for monitoring and regulating the market.

The stated goal of government regulation of the broadcast-media market is to guarantee that quality remains high and that coverage is national. Cable TV is essentially unregulated beyond the effect of general laws (e.g., there is a ban on pornography).

Newspapers operate independently and express a plurality of views. As elsewhere in the world, newspaper circulation is on the decline, as is print advertising. As a result, many newspapers are under financial strain and have in recent years been forced to cut back on editorial staff. Web-based news outlets are replacing print newspapers, and are accounting for a steadily growing market share of media advertising. In the last few years, local newspapers in particular have come under increasing strain resulting from reductions in advertising income and subscription rates.

The concentration of ownership has not to date been perceived as a threat to media plurality. However, private ownership is becoming increasingly oligopolistic across print and broadcast media. The distributors of digital signals have also used their power to change marketplace dynamics. Since digital distribution is becoming increasingly important, the structure of ownership in this channel has a larger negative implication for media plurality. Although there is a tradition of nonintervention by owners in editorial matters, the print media as a body has at critical junctures become politically biased. The media landscape as a whole, as well as the general public debate, demonstrates a noticeable and sometimes-narrow political correctness. Broadband internet is widely used and accessible all over the country.

To what extent can citizens obtain official information?

10
 9

Legal regulations guarantee free and easy access to official information, contain few, reasonable restrictions, and there are effective mechanisms of appeal and oversight enabling citizens to access information.
 8
 7
 6


Access to official information is regulated by law. Most restrictions are justified, but access is sometimes complicated by bureaucratic procedures. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms permit citizens to enforce their right of access.
 5
 4
 3


Access to official information is partially regulated by law, but complicated by bureaucratic procedures and some poorly justified restrictions. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms are often ineffective.
 2
 1

Access to official information is not regulated by law; there are many restrictions of access, bureaucratic procedures and no or ineffective mechanisms of enforcement.
Access to Government Information
10
Freedom of information legislation gives every person right of access to official documents held by public authorities. Official documents are defined as information that is recorded and can be listened to, displayed or transferred, and which is either created and dispatched by an authority or has been received by an authority.

All records are indexed at the time of creation or receipt. Some ministries make these electronic indexes available on the internet or through e-mail. Requests can be made in any form (even anonymously) and must be responded to without undue delay, generally (according to Ministry of Justice guidelines) within three days.

Documents can be withheld if they are made secret by another law or if they refer to issues of national security, national defense or international relations, financial management, the minutes of the State Council, appointments or security measures in the civil service, regulatory or oversight measures, test answers, annual fiscal budgets or long-term budgets, or photographs of persons entered in a personal data register. If access is denied, individuals can appeal to a higher authority and then to the parliament’s ombudsman for public administration, or to a court. The ombudsman’s decisions are not binding but are generally followed. There have been very few court cases dealing with this issue.

The 1998 Security Act sets rules on the classification of information. It creates four levels of classification and mandates that information cannot be classified for more than 30 years. The Act on Defense Secrets prohibits the disclosure of military secrets by government officials, as well as the collection (in the form of sketches, photographs or notes) and disclosure of secrets by others, including journalists. Articles 90 and 91 of the criminal code criminalize the disclosure of secrets, and provide for imprisonment of up to 10 years for violations of these provisions.

In 2010, the government made it easier for citizens to access public documents by providing them with access to the government’s electronic-post journal.

Civil Rights and Political Liberties

#1

To what extent does the state respect and protect civil rights and how effectively are citizens protected by courts against infringements of their rights?

10
 9

All state institutions respect and effectively protect civil rights. Citizens are effectively protected by courts against infringements of their rights. Infringements present an extreme exception.
 8
 7
 6


The state respects and protects rights, with few infringements. Courts provide protection.
 5
 4
 3


Despite formal protection, frequent infringements of civil rights occur and court protection often proves ineffective.
 2
 1

State institutions respect civil rights only formally, and civil rights are frequently violated. Court protection is not effective.
Civil Rights
10
State institutions respect and protect civil rights. Personal liberties are well-protected against abuse by state and non-state actors. People cannot be detained without charge for more than 24 hours. A court decides whether a suspect should be held in prison during an investigation, a question given more serious consideration here than in some other countries. The issue of civil rights receives considerable attention in the media and from intellectuals as well as from the government bodies responsible for the protection of civil rights. The court system is, however, not always effective. It may take considerable time for a case to be handled in the courts.

Access to the courts is free and easy, and the judiciary system is viewed as fair and efficient. The most difficult recent court case was that of Anders Breivik, who on 22 July 2011 orchestrated domestic acts of terrorism, killing 77 people and causing massive material damage. This incident was regarded as a national trauma, but from a judicial perspective was handled scrupulously and according to due process. There is full freedom of movement and of religion. Respect for civil rights extends to the rights of asylum-seekers.

Privacy is less protected than in some other countries. All residents are recorded in a compulsory population register with a unique number that is also used in all official and much private business, including banking.

To what extent does the state concede and protect political liberties?

10
 9

All state institutions concede and effectively protect political liberties.
 8
 7
 6


All state institutions for the most part concede and protect political liberties. There are only few infringements.
 5
 4
 3


State institutions concede political liberties but infringements occur regularly in practice.
 2
 1

Political liberties are unsatisfactory codified and frequently violated.
Political Liberties
9
Political liberties are protected in the constitution and in law, although the constitution does not strongly articulate explicit protections for minority rights. The right to free expression was strengthened through a constitutional amendment in 2004. Norway has ratified all international conventions on human and civil rights. The European Convention on Human Rights is incorporated into national law. The right to free worship is ensured. The Lutheran church stills enjoys a privileged status, but its actual political influence is limited. Its status as a state church was reformed in 2012, increasing its autonomy of decision-making and introducing various forms of “democratization” in church affairs. Political liberties are respected by state institutions.

How effectively does the state protect against different forms of discrimination?

10
 9

State institutions effectively protect against and actively prevent discrimination. Cases of discrimination are extremely rare.
 8
 7
 6


State anti-discrimination protections are moderately successful. Few cases of discrimination are observed.
 5
 4
 3


State anti-discrimination efforts show limited success. Many cases of discrimination can be observed.
 2
 1

The state does not offer effective protection against discrimination. Discrimination is widespread in the public sector and in society.
Non-discrimination
9
Equality of opportunity and equality before the law are firmly established in Norway. There is an ombudsperson for civil rights. The Sami minority living in the north of the country has some limited self-rule. Some contention exists over the use of natural resources in the Sami areas in the north, and legal issues over entitlements to land and water resources in these areas remain unresolved.

Men and women have essentially identical educational levels. Women’s labor-force participation rate is comparatively high. There is some evidence of gender discrimination in wages, as women earn on average just 84.7% of what men earn. However, once specifics such as the number of hours worked, occupation, education and experience are taken into consideration, it is difficult to observe significant differences between the earnings of men and women. This finding does not per se imply that there is no gender discrimination whatsoever in the labor market (e.g., men may be more readily hired in high-paying occupations). In 2017, several instances of gender-based discrimination were disclosed as a result of the #metoo campaign. On the other hand, affirmative action in favor of women has been used extensively in the labor market, particularly within the public sector. Even so, the labor market remains by international comparison strongly segregated by gender and occupation.

Day-care services are widespread and heavily subsidized. To a large extent, the supply of child-care services is today adequate to meet parents’ demand. In 2006, a law went into effect introducing affirmative action in the selection of board members for publicly listed companies. Under this regulation, at least 40% of board members must be women. This goal was achieved in two years with surprisingly little difficulty.

Some discrimination against non-Western immigrants seems to persist. In some areas of the economy, immigrants find it comparatively harder to find work, while earning lower wages and showing substantially higher unemployment rates than native Norwegians. Although discrimination against immigrants (including in the labor market) is illegal, it occurs in some areas of Norwegian society, though very few discrimination cases are prosecuted.

Rule of Law

#4

To what extent do government and administration act on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions to provide legal certainty?

10
 9

Government and administration act predictably, on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions. Legal regulations are consistent and transparent, ensuring legal certainty.
 8
 7
 6


Government and administration rarely make unpredictable decisions. Legal regulations are consistent, but leave a large scope of discretion to the government or administration.
 5
 4
 3


Government and administration sometimes make unpredictable decisions that go beyond given legal bases or do not conform to existing legal regulations. Some legal regulations are inconsistent and contradictory.
 2
 1

Government and administration often make unpredictable decisions that lack a legal basis or ignore existing legal regulations. Legal regulations are inconsistent, full of loopholes and contradict each other.
Legal Certainty
10
Norway’s government and administration act predictably and in accordance with the law. Norway has a sound and transparent legal system. Corruption within the legal system is a rather marginal problem. The state bureaucracy is regarded as both efficient and reliable. Norwegian citizens generally trust their institutions.

To what extent do independent courts control whether government and administration act in conformity with the law?

10
 9

Independent courts effectively review executive action and ensure that the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 8
 7
 6


Independent courts usually manage to control whether the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 5
 4
 3


Courts are independent, but often fail to ensure legal compliance.
 2
 1

Courts are biased for or against the incumbent government and lack effective control.
Judicial Review
10
Norway’s court system provides for the review of actions by the executive. The legal system is grounded in the principles of the so-called Scandinavian civil-law system. There is no general codification of private or public law, as in civil-law countries. Rather, there are comprehensive statutes codifying central aspects of the criminal law and the administration of justice, among other things.

Norwegian courts do not attach the same weight to judicial precedents as does the judiciary in common-law countries. Court procedure is relatively informal and simple, and there is a strong lay influence in the judicial assessment of criminal cases.

At the top of the judicial hierarchy is the Supreme Court, which is followed by the High Court. The majority of criminal matters are settled summarily in the district courts (Forhoersrett). A Court of Impeachment is available to hear charges brought against government ministers, members of parliament and Supreme Court judges, although it is very rarely used. The courts are independent of any influence exerted by the executive. Professional standards and the quality of internal organization are high. The selection of judges is rarely disputed and is not seen as involving political issues.

To what extent does the process of appointing (supreme or constitutional court) justices guarantee the independence of the judiciary?

10
 9

Justices are appointed in a cooperative appointment process with special majority requirements.
 8
 7
 6


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies with special majority requirements or in a cooperative selection process without special majority requirements.
 5
 4
 3


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies without special majority requirements.
 2
 1

All judges are appointed exclusively by a single body irrespective of other institutions.
Appointment of Justices
9
Judges are formally appointed by the government. However, decisions are prepared by a special autonomous body called the Instillingsrådet. This independent body, composed of three judges, one lawyer, a legal expert from the public sector and two members who are not from the legal profession, provides recommendations that are almost always followed by the government. Supreme Court justices are not considered to be in any way political and have security of tenure guaranteed in the constitution. There is a firm tradition of autonomy in the Supreme Court. The appointment of judges attracts limited attention and rarely leads to public debate.

To what extent are public officeholders prevented from abusing their position for private interests?

10
 9

Legal, political and public integrity mechanisms effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 8
 7
 6


Most integrity mechanisms function effectively and provide disincentives for public officeholders willing to abuse their positions.
 5
 4
 3


Some integrity mechanisms function, but do not effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 2
 1

Public officeholders can exploit their offices for private gain as they see fit without fear of legal consequences or adverse publicity.
Corruption Prevention
8
There are few well-known instances of corruption in Norway. The few cases of government corruption that have surfaced in recent years have primarily been at the regional or municipal level, or in various public bodies related to social aid. As a rule, corrupt officeholders are prosecuted under established laws. There is a great social stigma against corruption, even in its minor manifestations. However, there are concerns about government corruption in areas such as building permits. During the last few years, some incidences of corruption related to investments and overseas Norwegian business activities have been revealed.
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