31 March 2016

Norway: 26 MPs in favour of republic, 137 against

The members of the Storting, the Norwegian Parliament, voted today over a constitutional bill (Dokument 12:10 (2011-2012)) to change the form of government from monarchy to republic. The bill, which traditionally is put forward by the Socialistic Left Party* every fourth year or so, got 28 votes, which later were corrected to 26, as two MPs had voted in error.

This was the 12th (or was it the 13th?) time the Storting has voted over the question about the form of government. There was of course never any danger of a constittional majority for such a bill, but is is nevertheless a way for the republican minority to demonstrate their principles and to initiate a debate. Or to put it another way, the 137 MPs who voted against the bill demonstrated how strong the people's support of the monarchical form of government still is. Of course, if Norway had decided to start from scratch, a republic certainly would have been established. But that is exactly the point. A majority of the people don't want to throw away a thousand years of tradition and history. The majority of MPs mirrors the wish of the people.

If the bill had got a constitutional majority (2/3), the republic would not have been adopted right away, as the proposal said that the bill would come into force on 1 January the year after the people had voted in favour of the bill in a referendum The referendum should take place no later than 31 September 2017.

As explained at the website of the Storting, a «proposal to amend the text of the Constitution must be submitted to the Storting during one of the first three years of a four-year parliamentary term. Even if the right of initiative belongs to the government, such proposals are normally presented by individual members of Parliament. Such proposals cannot be considered by the Storting until one of the first three years of the next parliamentary term, a system that provides an opportunity for the electorate to have its say through the election of the new Parliament. The proposal is considered by the Storting in a sitting in which at least two-thirds of the members of the Storting must be present to constitute a quorum. Of these, at least two-thirds must vote in favour of the proposal in order for it to be adopted.»

Of the 26 MPs who voted in favour of the republican bill, 16 MPs represented the Labour Party, 6 the Socialist Left Party and 3 the Liberals. The remaining vote was made by a member of the Conservative Party. 137 MPs voted against the bill, while 6 MPs were not present in the Storting today.

In 2010 17 MPs voted in favour of the bill (Dokument nr. 12:3 (2007-2008)), while 125 were against. In March 2013 the Storting debated a proposal to start a process leading to the introduction of a republic, but the proposal only got 11 votes (against 83). An alternative proposal got 17 votes (against 75).

*Traditionally the republican bill has been put forward by members of the Socialist Left Party only, but this time also four members of the Labour Party were behind it.

Updated on Thursday 31 March 2016 at 22.05 (number of Labour MPs behind the proposal corrected).


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