How people elect parliaments
The Norwegian government, an alliance of the Høyre (Conservative) party and the right-populist Fremskrittspartiet (Progress) party, has survived a significant swing against it in yesterday’s Norwegian election.
Conducted under a party-based electoral system which levels the seat totals in the Storting (the national parliament) to match each party’s aggregate national vote share, the two governing parties, and two other general allies, have collectively lost around 7 seats to a cluster of five opposition parties.
But the right-of-centre alliance looks set to hold 89 of the 169 seats in the new parliament, as against a combined non-government total of 80 seats.
While the two-party official government is slightly weakened, they may not need to take either of the other supportive parties into their inner coalition. All four parties lost a few seats, and the relative seat numbers are not significantly changed.
Once again, the largest party in the Storting – the Arbeiderpartiet (Labour) party, with 49 seats – will remain out of government, since the two main right-of-centre coalition parties again placed 2nd (45 seats) and 3rd (28 seats) in voter support.
Four of the largest five parties in the previous chamber have lost vote share and thus seats. The major seat-gaining party is the non-government Senterpartiet (Centre) party, which grows from 10 to 18 seats, probably by taking some voter support from the Labour party.
150 of the 169 Storting seats are allocated among 19 electoral divisions that are based on the fylker (counties) of Norway.
However the Storting seat allotment among these county divisions is highly unusual in that it utilises a deliberate land area factor, with seats allotted by quotients based on an aggregate of both population (1 point per person) and land area (1.8 points per square kilometre).
Compared to a population-only approach, this malapportionment has the effect of depriving the small-area divisions of Oslo and neighbouring Akershus of 2 seats each, granting 2-3 seats to far-northern Finnmark, and otherwise altering divisional seat allotments by only 1 or 0 seats.
The Norwegian fylker (county) parliamentary seat allotments are deliberately distorted in favour of large land-area counties (image: Wikipedia)
The remaining 19 seats – one for each fylker electoral division – are reserved to allow for the party levelling calculations. In this election the 19 seats look set to be allotted to small parties which were mathematically disadvantaged in the initial divisional allocations of seats.
With 95% of the vote counted, official projections are that the Sosialistisk Venstreparti (Socialist Left) will be allotted 6 of the levelling seats, with each of the Kristelig Folkeparti (Christian Democrats) and the Venstre (Liberal) parties allotted 5 seats. All three parties will receive more than half their parliamentary seats through the levelling allotments.
Seat allocations to the nine parties currently in the Storting are closely matched to national vote shares.
The small Miljøpartiet De Grønne (Green) and Rødt (Red) parties look set to be allotted one levelling seat each.
Under the Norwegian electoral system Storting seats are finally allocated to individual listed candidates once each party’s allotment of seats in each electoral division has been determined.
While the system is nominally an ‘open list‘ one, when they go to the polls Norwegian voters are presented with party ballot papers listing their preferred party’s candidates in a numbered order.
Each voter may mark on their ballot a different preferred numbering, but no change to the candidate order is effective unless at least 50% of a party’s voters in a division mark an increase in an individual candidate’s ranking.
According to a Norwegian government description of this system, such a re-ordering of a party’s candidate order “never happens”, making the system in reality a ‘closed list’ one in which the parties can determine which candidates are awarded their allotment of seats.