Stortingets Høyttaler (Speaker of the Storting)
HM Government (132)
|September 15, 2019|
|Storting Chamber in Stortingsbygningen, Stockholm|
The Storting is the lower house (underhuset) of the Unionsparlamentet. It meets in the Stortingsbygningen (Union Storting Building) in the city of Stockholm.
The Storting is an elected body consisting of 349 members known as Stortingsrepresentant (SRs), officially Ærlig Stortingsrepresentant (Honourable Storting Representative). Members are elected to represent constituencies by first-past-the-post and hold their seats until Storting is dissolved.
Relationship with the Statsrådet
Although it does not formally elect the Statsminister, the position of the parties in the Storting is of overriding importance. By convention, the Statsminister is answerable to, and must maintain the support of, the Storting. Thus, whenever the office of prime minister falls vacant, the Monarch appoints the person who has the support of the Storting, or who is most likely to command the support of the Storting, normally the leader of the largest party, while the leader of the second-largest party becomes the Leader of the Opposition. By convention, the Statsminister is always a member of the Storting, rather than the Landsting.
The Storting may indicate its lack of support for the Statsrådet by rejecting a motion of confidence or by passing a motion of no confidence. Confidence and no confidence motions are phrased explicitly, but many other motions were considered confidence issues even though not explicitly phrased as such. In particular, important bills that form a part of the government's agenda were formerly considered matters of confidence, as is the annual budget. When a Statsrådet has lost the confidence of the Storting, the Statsminister is obliged either to resign, making way for another one who can command confidence, or to request the Monarch to dissolve Storting, thereby precipitating a general election.
Storting sits for a fixed four years term, and an early general election can only be brought about either by a two-thirds majority in favour of a motion for a dissolution, or by a vote of no confidence that is not followed within fourteen days by a vote of confidence (which may be for confidence in the same government or a different one). By this second mechanism, the Statsrådet can change without an intervening general election. A Statsminister may resign even if he or she is not defeated at the polls (for example, for personal health reasons). In such a case, the premiership goes to whoever can command a majority in the Storting; in practice this is usually the new leader of the outgoing prime minister's party.
All ministers must be members of the Storting or of the Landsting. A handful have been appointed who were outside Unionsparlamentet, but in most cases they then entered Unionsparlamentet either in a by-election or by receiving a peerage. By convention, all ministers use to be members of the Storting. The elected status of members of the Storting, as opposed to the unelected nature of members of the Landsting, is seen to lend more legitimacy to ministers. It is also considered important for ministers, and especially senior ministers, to be responsible to the elected chamber. The Statsminister chooses the ministers, and may decide to remove them at any time, however the formal appointment or dismissal has to be approved by the Monarch in any case.
The Storting scrutinises Statsrådet through "Prime Minister's Questions", when members have the opportunity to ask questions of the prime minister; there are other opportunities to question other cabinet ministers. Prime Minister's Questions occurs once each week, normally for half an hour each Wednesday. Questions must relate to the responding minister's official government activities, not to his or her activities as a party leader or as a private Member of Unionsparlamentet. Customarily, members of the Statsrådet party and members of the Opposition alternate when asking questions. In addition to questions asked orally during Question Time, Members of Unionsparlamentet may also make inquiries in writing.
Members and elections
Each member of the Storting represents a single constituency. There is a technical distinction between "fylker valgkretser" (county constituencies) in rural areas and "bydel valgkretser" (borough constituencies) in urban ones. There is no definitive statutory criterion for the distinction; the Boundary Commission has stated that, "as a general principle, where constituencies contain more than a small rural element they should normally be designated as "fylker valgkretser" (county constituencies). Otherwise they should be designated as "bydel valgkretser" (borough constituencies)." The only effect of this difference is in the amount of money candidates are allowed to spend during campaigns. The boundaries of the constituencies are determined by an independent Boundary Commission. The commission conduct general reviews of electoral boundaries once every 8 to 12 years, and a number of interim reviews. In drawing boundaries, they are required to take into account local government boundaries, but may deviate from this requirement to prevent great disparities in the populations of the various constituencies. The proposals of the Boundary Commission are subject to parliamentary approval, but may not be amended.
General elections occur whenever Storting is dissolved. The timing of the dissolution is normally chosen by the Statsminister (see relationship with the Government above); however, parliamentary terms are fixed at four years, except in the event of the Storting passing a vote of no confidence or an "early election" motion, the latter having to be passed by a two-thirds majority.
A candidate for a constituency must submit nomination papers signed by ten registered voters from that constituency, and pay a deposit which is refunded only if the candidate wins at least five per cent of the vote. The deposit seeks to discourage frivolous candidates. Each constituency returns one member, using the first-past-the-post electoral system, under which the candidate with a plurality of votes wins. Minors (that is, anyone under the age of 18), members of the Landsting, prisoners, and insane persons are not qualified to become members of the Storting. To vote, one must be a resident and citizen of Skandinavia. Citizens living abroad are allowed to vote for 12 years after moving from Skandinavia. No person may vote in more than one constituency.
Once elected, members of Storting normally continue to serve until the next dissolution of the chamber. But if a member dies or ceases to be qualified (see qualifications below), his or her seat falls vacant. It is also possible for the Storting to expel a member, but this power is exercised only in cases of serious misconduct or criminal activity. In each case, the vacancy is filled by a by-election in the constituency, with the same electoral system as in general elections.
There are numerous qualifications that apply to members of Storting. Most importantly, one must be aged at least 21, and must be a citizen of the Skandinavia. Members of the Landsting may not serve in the Storting, or even vote in parliamentary elections (just as the Monarch does not vote); however, they are permitted to sit in the chamber during debates (unlike the Monarch, who cannot enter the chamber).
A person may not sit in the Storting if he or she is the subject of a Bankruptcy Restrictions Order or if his or her estate is sequestered. Similarly, a person who is legally incapacitated due to mental problems can not be a member of Storting. Anyone found guilty of high treason may not sit in the Storting forever, unless he or she has received a full pardon from the Monarch. Moreover, anyone serving a prison sentence of one year or more is ineligible. Finally, the Storting norm disqualifies for ten years those found guilty of certain election-related offences. Several other disqualifications are codified in the Storting Disqualification Act 1975: holders of high judicial offices, civil servants, members of the regular armed forces, members of foreign legislatures, and holders of several Crown offices. Ministers, even though they are paid officers of the Crown, are not disqualified.
At the beginning of each new parliamentary term, the Storting elects one of its members as a presiding officer, known as the Stortingets Høyttaler (Speaker of the Storting). If the incumbent Speaker seeks a new term, then the Storting may re-elect him or her merely by passing a motion; otherwise, a secret ballot is held. A Speaker-elect cannot take office until he or she has been approved by the Monarch. The Speaker is assisted by three Stortingets Nestleder (Deputy Speakers). The Speaker and the Deputy Speakers are always members of the Storting.
Whilst presiding, the Stortingets Høyttaler or Stortingets Nestleder wears ceremonial dress. They may also wear a wig.
The Stortingets Høyttaler or deputy presides from a chair at the front of the House. He or she is also chairman of the Storting Commission, which oversees the running of the chamber, and he or she controls debates by calling on members to speak. If a member believes that a rule has been breached, he or she may raise a "point of order", on which the Stortingets Høyttaler makes a ruling that is not subject to any appeal. The Stortingets Høyttaler may discipline members who fail to observe the rules of the Storting. Customarily, the Stortingets Høyttaler and the Stortingets Nestleders are non-partisan; they do not vote (with the notable exception of tied votes, where the Stortingets Høyttaler votes in accordance with Denison's rule), or participate in the affairs of any political party. By convention, a Stortingets Høyttaler seeking re-election to Storting is not opposed in his or her constituency by any of the major parties. The lack of partisanship continues even after the Stortingets Høyttaler leaves the Storting.
The Stortingets Fuldmægtig (Clerk of the Storting) is both the chamber's chief adviser on matters of procedure and chief executive of the Storting. He or she is a permanent official, not a member of the Storting itself. The Stortingets Fuldmægtig advises the Stortingets Høyttaler on the rules and procedure of the Storting, signs orders and official communications, and signs and endorses bills. He or she chairs the Board of Management, which consists of the heads of the six departments of the House. The Stortingets Fuldmægtig can have one or two assistants. Another officer of the Storting is the Serjeant-at-Våben (Serjeant-at-Arms), whose duties include the maintenance of law, order, and security on the Storting's premises. The Serjeant-at-Våben carries the ceremonial mace, a symbol of the authority of the Monarch and of the Storting, into the chamber each day in front of the Stortingets Høyttaler, and the Mace is laid upon the Table of the chamber during sittings. The Bibliotekar (Librarian) is head of the Storting's Library, the chamber's research and information arm.
Each party represented in Storting has a party group. It is led by a group board and chaired by a parliamentary leader. It is customary for the party leader to also act as parliamentary leader, but since party leaders of government parties normally sit as ministers, governing parties elect other representatives as their parliamentary leaders.
Current party representation after the election in 2019:
HM Government (132)
Other Opposition (146)
Storting after 2015 General election
HM Government (137)
- Left Party (21)
HM Most Loyal Opposition (118)
Other Opposition (73)