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In the Middle Ages, Norway was an independent state with a Norwegian king. From 1397, Norway was ruled by the same king as Denmark, and it was part of the same state. This lasted until 1814, when Norway again became independent with its own parliament (the Storting), administration and constitution, which is celebrated on 17 May every year. Norway still shared a king, however, now with Sweden - an arrangement that lasted until 1905, when the union with Sweden was dissolved and Prince Carl of Denmark, grandfather of today's King Harald was chosen as the new king of Norway. As an independent nation, Norway is a member of international organisations such as the United Nations (UN) and NATO, but it is not part of the European Union (EU).

The constitution from 1814 made Norway a relatively democratic state. The king had limited powers, and the country was no longer ruled by an absolute monarch. Forty per cent of adult males had the right to vote, a high figure at that time. But women and men who worked for others were not entitled to vote. Following a long political struggle, it was decided in 1884 that Norway was to be what is called a parliamentary democracy: the government could no longer ignore the wishes of the majority of the parliament, the Storting. All men got the vote in 1898, and all women in 1913. Today, immigrants can vote in general elections when they become Norwegian citizens. Immigrants can usually become Norwegian citizens after living here for seven years, and they can vote in local elections after living here for three years.

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