Norway – More From Two: Observations of Politics – by Jonia Gordon. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
Editor’s Note: this is a part of a special series from Jonia Gordon, a talented student who is studying in Oslo, Norway for the Fall 2015 semester. Jonia is a thoughtful writer, as well as a talented artist. The illustrations that accompany this article are also by Jonia.
During the period in which I studied abroad in Norway, I was fortunate enough to be there during local (city/county) elections. Throughout the program, we (as a class) were able to learn about how the political system began and has evolved throughout the years, the political parties, and how the voting system works. At the same time, we were able to observe the process of campaigning for the election that would take place.
In the process of learning, I couldn’t help but to draw comparisons between the United States and Norway. The U.S. is a system that I was more familiar with and yet, it wasn’t until I was confronted with the system of Norway that I was able to have a changed perception. In the U.S., there is a bi-partisan system (Democrats and Republicans) that has led to the citizens having to make a choice for one over the other. The easiest way I can describe this is that both parties come as a standard meal; each has food items that you like, dislike, and have no strong opinion towards your preference. Yet, you must make a decision between these two standard meals – no substitutions allowed. As a citizen you must make the choice of what meal (political party) suits your tastes the most.
(Picture 1: Visual representation of bipartisan standard meal described above.)
In comparison to the constitutional monarchy, which has a parliamentary system. that operates under a coalition of multiple parties. Some notable parties are: the Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet), the Conservative Party (Høyre, literal translation: ‘Right), the Liberal Party (Venstre, literal translation: ‘Left’), and the Green Party (Miljøpariet De Grønne). This system still offers the standard meals; however, due to their being multiple parties available, the meals are more specific (focused political goals). This helps the citizens to decide on a party with less compromises to their opinions/political standings. This system still has drawbacks just as the U.S. does.
One fact about Norway’s system that I really appreciate is the voter registration process. The individual citizen is automatically registered to vote when they are born and the birth certificate has been verified. I believe that this system has a large impact on why the country has such a large voter turnout. It led me to wonder how much of a difference this would make in the U.S., if it became a commonplace system. Still, one must consider the population and geographical differences between the two countries and how that impacts the quality and rate of how it would operate on a larger scale. Another aspect of the Norwegian system that caught my attention is the youth wings of parties that are active within all of its municipalities. The use of the term ‘youth wing’ has some negative associations (e.g., WWII) that can lead to assumptions and misunderstandings as to what its purpose and function is. One major event is that when elections are occurring, high schools will hold mock elections (and youth wing members are active in presenting the parties views) a week or so prior to the official elections. These mock elections are followed closely throughout Norway and are considered to be major indicators of how the results will turn out.
(Picture 2: Visual representation of Norway’s voter registration)
Finally, I thought the campaigning process was fascinating. Due to parties being established and well-known for their views, there isn’t as long of a campaigning season. Although, I observed a local election (Oslo), the campaigning didn’t begin until a month before the election and (supposedly) national elections have only a slightly longer season. Then I look towards the United States and see a stark difference in length. In many ways, I’ve come back with a more negative view towards the system in the U.S. and that definitely led to me wanting to ignore the campaigning as long as I could.
At the same time. I decided to focus more intently in order to be a person for change and not fall into the category of an inactive or uninformed voter. I’ve taken a lot from this experience and believe that it has benefitted myself to delve more into politics than I have in the past.
(Picture 3: My response to the United States while the Norwegian municipalities elections were occurring.)
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