In formal terms, Norway is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democratic system of governance. Democratic because the source of political power and legitimacy according to the Constitution lies with the people, in that all citizens are able to participate in the Storting (Norwegian national assembly), county and municipal councils. Parliamentary in as much as the Government, as the acting executive power, cannot govern without the confidence of the Storting, the legislative power. Constitutional monarchy because the Government, in accordance with the original articles of the Constitution, derives its authority from the executive power vested in the King.
Both democratic governance and the monarchy were established in the Constitution of 1814. Parliamentarianism was introduced in 1884. Today, the King has little real political power, but fills an important symbolic function as the Head of State and official representative of Norwegian society and industry. The monarchy also plays a crucial unifying role that becomes particularly evident in times of national crisis. This was clearly demonstrated during WWII, when King Haakon VII, who opposed the Nazi invasion of Norway in 1940, fled Norway to work against the occupation from exile in London.
State power is formally distributed between three institutions: the Storting (the legislative power), the Government (the executive power) and the courts (the judicial power). In addition, the public administration, which was designed to serve the needs of the political bodies, is sometimes viewed as a fourth state power, as it now takes independent action and can exert influence on the shaping of policies. There is also a geographical distribution of political power into state, county and municipal levels.
The participation of the people in the political sphere takes place both through direct elections and through their membership of organizations. The average Norwegian is a member of four organizations and approximately 70% of the adult population is a member of at least one organization. Such organizations are able to exert influence on the authorities by means of formal and informal contacts with the public administration. Close contacts between the standing parliamentary committees, ministries and interest groups mean that Norwegian policies are oriented towards segments such as the industrial segment, the agricultural segment or the educational segment.
Election turnout is usually in the vicinity of 80%. General suffrage for men was introduced in 1898, and for women in 1913. The age of majority is currently 18.