Norway's monarchy is not democratic and lacks transparency. These are just some of the reasons it should be scrapped, according to one Life in Norway contributor.
The recent passing of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has left many people in the U.K. considering the role of the monarchy. Yet this isn’t a discussion we hear very often in Norway.
Almost 80% of people in Norway support the monarchy, and the Royal family is more popular than ever. So why do I think Norway should scrap the monarchy? Here are some reasons why.
It’s not democratic
Citizen participation is the most essential part of any democracy; the people elect the Head of State. When such power is achieved through birth, it’s inherently not democratic. This is the most obvious argument in favour of a republic.
Lack of transparency
Another very important part of Norway’s democracy is transparency. The Freedom of Information Act establishes that everyone, not the least the press, can request public information. The law applies to all government institutions and the public sector in Norway.
This is crucial to national security, to control public spending, and even to prevent corruption. Although some content is exempt from the public.
However, despite being financed through everyone’s tax payments, the Law doesn’t apply to the Royal Castle and Family. The Castle’s administration can refuse the press’ requests to look into, for example, how the Royal family spends money, or to give out any other document that may be of interest to the public.
In 2016, The Norwegian Press Association sent a formal letter to the Ministry of Justice in Norway to include the Royal Castle in the Freedom of Information Act.
The King’s immunity
The King is not above the Law, but he can’t personally be charged or accused for any offence. In Norway, this kind of immunity is only granted to diplomats.
Even if a president also may have some sort of immunity, this is not given as a birthright, but granted through a democratic election process.
No retirement age
People in Norway must retire before they turn 70 years, except the King or Queen. There is no possibility for the Parliament to remove a King from his position due to age.
However, King Harald has asked his family to take action if he suffers from dementia or Alzheimers.
We never know what we get
The Royal Family does an excellent job and I’m not saying this could happen in Norway today. However, Royals around Europe make bad decisions and have also been involved in scandals and even crime. Such occurrences, combined with the lack of transparency and the King’s immunity, is not a very good mix.
And our Royal family is neither without controversies. Martha’s fiance Durek Verret, has been criticized because of his outspoken approach to modern medicine. He has, for example, been advertising a medallion he claims will cure Covid 19. Martha is number four in line to the throne.
Lack of freedom and human rights
According to the Constitution shall: “All inhabitants of the realm have the right to free exercise of their religion”. And paradoxically: “The King shall at all times profess the Evangelical-Lutheran religion.” This automatically includes the heirs. And implies they don’t have freedom of religion, unless they abdicate or give up the succession to the Throne.
The royals have a very limited freedom of speech and they are expected to be politically correct at any time. Their activity in social media is probably monitored and with strict limitations. Even “liking” an image can imply some sort of opinion. Of course, they can’t vote.
They are not free to join any organization, which is also a human right. Neither can they appear in public without security guards. And even though the Norwegian media for the most part respects some privacy, everything is potentially newsworthy; every drunken escapade, illness and diagnosis, every girlfriend or boyfriend, every break-up.
Monarchies are built on archaic traditions and values
While almost one third of couples in Norway choose not to get married, heirs must be born in legal marriage. The princes and princess can neither marry without personal permission from the King.
Additionally, the Constitution states: “The Royal Princes and Princesses shall not personally be answerable to anyone other than the King, or whomever he decrees to sit in judgment on them.”
All of this implies Norway’s most important law justifies a restraining and old-fashioned life for a group of people: Christian, heterosexual, married with biological children, and where grown people are not free to make life choices without a parent’s or grandparent’s permission.
This combined with lack of human rights, does in my opinion, not entitle them to a free life. Neither does all of this reflect Norway’s diversity.
It’s not easy to abdicate
An argument commonly used by monarchists, is the possibility of giving up succession to the Throne or to abdicate. But is this a choice anyone should have to make?
Being raised as an heir from birth, and then going into history as one who didn’t or couldn’t want to be the King or Queen of Norway, can hardly be easy. Hypothetically, because you want to marry a Muslim and convert, because you want to go into politics, or just don’t feel strong enough?
Lack of criticism
The Parliament took out the word “holiness” from the Constitution some years ago. But I still think the level of respect for someone who is Head of State is frankly, too high. There are very few who criticizes the King and Queen personally. Even when it is relevant.
Many may not know that when Church and State separated some years ago, The King was asked what he thought about keeping the paragraph in the Constitution which states the King has to be of Lutheran faith.
When asked for his opinion, the King replied: “It is natural the King remains Christian”. And this resulted in the Parliament not changing the Constitution, even though the majority, most likely, was in favour.
And as such, Church and State in Norway are not totally separated. Additionally, heirs don’t have freedom of religion. Only a few newspapers had the courage to speak up. This would never be possible in a republic.
We romanticize the monarchy
The Royal family is privileged, and probably for the most part, happy. But most monarchists seem to forget this isn’t something they have chosen, and that it may not be a very desirable life.
Frankly, I think all the glory and admiration of people just because of their birth, belong in fairy tales, and not in a democratic country in 2022.
Anyway, it is close to impossible to have a rational constitutional debate in Norway. People tend to get overwhelmed with emotions, and it almost always comes down to how wonderful the Royal family is.
That’s why most people won’t listen to any of these arguments, and why Norway most likely will remain a constitutional monarchy in several generations to come.