Norway: The Decline of Subnational Democracy?

Harald Baldersheim and Lawrence E. Rose

in The Oxford Handbook of Local and Regional Democracy in Europe

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199562978
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Politics & International Relations

Norway: The Decline of Subnational Democracy?

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  • Politics
  • Regional Political Studies
  • Comparative Politics



The narrative of Norway is often narrated as series of national liberations culminating recently in deliverance from Nazi occupation. Another strand of the story is that of progressive social equalization resulting in the present welfare state and one of the most egalitarian societies in Europe. These stories have engendered a ‘freedom, equality, and peace’ syndrome in Norway which is a source of tension in central-local relations as well as in internal relations. Fear of losing control has resulted in a lack of constitutional protection for local self-government and two ‘No’ outcomes in referendums on Norwegian EU membership. This article discusses Norway and its assumed declining subnational democracy. Norway is a decentralized welfare state which belongs to the Scandinavian state tradition with distinctly cooperative central-local relations. Whereas local government is legally free to engage in tasks that are not explicitly granted to other public bodies or prohibited by law, in practice most important local functions are seen as joint responsibilities shared by the local and central government. Although decentralization and the transfer of functions were dominant in the early 1990s, these changed in the recent years as the state required the transfer of several functions of the local government to the state. There is also a parallel trend of more active central government intervention in local affairs. This indicated the diminishing tolerance of variation in levels and manners of local governance and local service provision.

Keywords: Norway; declining subnational democracy; decentralization; government; local government; local governance

Article.  8404 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Regional Political Studies ; Comparative Politics

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