Freedom in the World
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Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Parliamentary elections in September 2013 resulted in a significant win for the Conservative Party, led by Erna Solberg, who ousted Jens Stoltenberg’s red-green coalition. Initially enjoying huge personal popularity for his calm handling of the aftermath of the July 22, 2011, terrorist attacks in Norway, Stoltenberg was defeated in a campaign focused on domestic issues such as a badly functioning health care system and outdated infrastructure. His government also suffered from an August 2012 report by a government-appointed independent commission that found serious shortcomings in the police’s response to the terrorist attacks. The Conservatives formed a coalition in October 2013 with the somewhat controversial right-wing Progress Party, whose restrictive immigration policy remains a divisive issue in Norway.
Political Rights: 40 / 40 [Key]
A. Electoral Process: 12 / 12
Norway’s unicameral parliament, called the Storting, has 169 members who are directly elected for four-year terms through a system of proportional representation. The constitutional monarch, currently King Harald V, appoints the prime minister, who is the leader of the majority party or coalition in the Storting. While the monarch is officially the head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces, his duties are largely ceremonial.
The Conservative Party gained the most in the 2013 elections, winning 27 percent of the vote and 48 seats—an increase of 18 seats over previous elections. Although the Progress Party lost 12 seats, its remaining 29 seats helped it to form a government with the Conservatives. The Labor Party remains the biggest party in parliament with 30 percent of the vote and 55 seats, but it lost 9 seats from the 2009 elections and joined the opposition for the first time in 8 years. The smaller center-right Christian Democratic and Center Parties, with 10 seats each, are expected to vote with the government on key issues, most notably immigration and social reforms.
B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 16 / 16
A range of political parties operates freely in the country. With some exceptions, political power in Norway has alternated between the Labor Party and Conservative-led coalitions. The Progress Party’s critical stance on immigration has been widely debated in the media; how its transition from opposition to government party will affect its policy was not clear by year’s end.
The indigenous Sami population, in addition to participating in the national political process, has its own parliament, or Sameting, which has worked to protect the group’s language and cultural rights and influence the national government’s decisions about Sami land and its resources. The Sameting is comprised of 39 representatives who are elected for four-year terms. The national government supports Sami-language instruction, broadcast programs, and subsidized newspapers in Sami regions. A deputy minister in the national government deals specifically with Sami issues.
C. Functioning of Government: 12 / 12
Norway remains one of the least corrupt countries in the world, ranked 5 out of 177 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index. However, isolated incidents of bribery and misconduct have occurred, and Norway’s role in the international energy and mining industries has received particular scrutiny. In 2012 and throughout 2013, opposition parties strongly criticized Trade and Industry Minister Trond Giske for appointing friends and family to state bodies and state-owned firms; a parliamentary inquiry in 2013 found no overt wrongdoing.
Civil Liberties: 60 / 60
D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 16 / 16
Freedom of the press is constitutionally guaranteed and respected in practice. In an effort to promote political pluralism, the state subsidizes many newspapers, the majority of which are privately owned and openly partisan. The government does not impede internet access.
Freedom of religion is protected by the constitution and respected in practice. The monarch is the constitutional head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Norway, which counts 75.2% of Norwegians as members. Separation of state and church was achieved in 2012 with a constitutional amendment passed by Parliament, putting the Lutheran Church on par with all other denominations in Norway and absolving the requirement of half the cabinet to be members of the Lutheran Church. All religious groups must register with the state to receive financial support, which is determined by size of membership. Students must take a course on religion and ethics focusing on Christianity, though this is thought to violate international human rights conventions. Contrary to a recommendation from the government-appointed Faith and Ethics Policy Committee, Minister of Culture Hadia Tajik declared in parliament in January 2013 that hijabs will not be allowed in the Norwegian police force or judicial system. After a 2012 poll showed a rise in anti-Semitic attitudes, in 2013 anti-Semitic hate crimes were assigned their own category in police reports to facilitate tracking of new developments. Academic freedom is respected.
E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 12 / 12
The constitution guarantees freedoms of assembly and association. Norwegians are very active in nongovernmental organizations. Labor unions play an important role in consulting with the government on social and economic issues, and approximately 53 percent of the workforce is unionized, with 93% members of the four main unions. The right to strike is legally guaranteed, except for members of the military and senior civil servants, and is practiced without restrictions. All workers have the right to bargain collectively. There were no significant strikes in 2013.
F. Rule of Law: 16 / 16
The judiciary is independent, and the court system, headed by the Supreme Court, operates fairly at the local and national levels. The king appoints judges on the advice of the Ministry of Justice. The police are under civilian control, and human rights abuses by law enforcement authorities are rare. Prison conditions generally meet international standards and in many cases exceed them. Norway’s recidivism rate of approximately 20 percent is the lowest in Scandinavia.
The 2011 terrorist attacks prompted hostility to Norway’s multicultural agenda and its native Norwegian supporters. The attacks were perpetrated by Norwegian national and right-wing fundamentalist Anders Breivik, who killed 8 people in Oslo with a powerful bomb and then shot and killed 69 people attending a Labor Party summer youth camp on the island of Utøya. Prominent Norwegian right-wing extremist and heavy metal musician Kristian “Varg” Vikernes was arrested in July 2013 in France, where he will face charges of inciting racial hatred. Vikernes had informal connections to Breivik and had served a prison sentence for a 1994 murder in Oslo.
Immigration to Norway has increased fivefold since the 1970s, including recent asylum-seekers predominantly from Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan, and Eritrea. More than 10 percent of Norway’s population was foreign-born in 2013, and by year’s end approximately 11,983 people had applied for asylum in Norway, prompting the government to plan several new asylum centers. In 2012, Norwegian police raided a series of asylum centers and arranged forced repatriation of the more than 10,000 rejected asylum-seekers living illegally in Norway; no similar raids occurred in 2013. Immigration and asylum policies remain divisive in Norway.
G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 16 / 16
The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud is responsible for all forms of discrimination and for enforcing the country’s Gender Equality Act, the Anti-Discrimination Act, and other laws against discrimination. Although Norway is not a member of the European Union (EU), citizens within the European Economic Area (which includes all EU states plus Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein) do not need a residence permit to work in Norway.
The Gender Equality Act provides equal rights for men and women. A June 2013 law, taking effect in 2015, mandates gender-neutral conscription for the armed forces. This will make Norway the first NATO member to expand the draft to include women. In 2013, women won nearly 40 percent of seats in parliament. Norway is a destination country for human trafficking for the purposes of labor and sexual exploitation. In 2013 Save the Children called attention to 237 unaccompanied children missing from asylum centers over the last four years, citing fears of trafficking. However, according to the U.S. State Department’s 2014Trafficking in Persons Report, the country remains a leader in antitrafficking efforts.
In 2009 a gender-neutral marriage act was passed by Parliament, granting Norwegian same-sex couples identical rights as opposite-sex couples, including on adoption and assisted pregnancies. The Lutheran Church had at year’s end failed to develop a liturgy for same-sex weddings, allowing priests to bless unions but not officiate them, reflecting the continued disagreement within the Church on the issue.
X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year