Liberal Party (Norway)

Liberal Party
Leader Trine Skei Grande
Parliamentary leader Trine Skei Grande
Founded 28 January 1884
Headquarters Møllergata 16
0179 Oslo
Youth wing Young Liberals of Norway
Membership 9,643 (2012)[1]
Ideology Liberalism[2][3]
Social liberalism[2][3]
Political position Centre[2][3][4][5][6][7]
to Centre-right[8][9]
European affiliation Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
International affiliation Liberal International
Colours Green
9 / 169
County Councils[10]
39 / 728
Municipal Councils[11]
544 / 10,781
Sami Parliament
0 / 39

The Liberal Party (Norwegian: Venstre, V, meaning "left") is a liberal[12][13] and social-liberal[14][15][16] political party in Norway. The party is the oldest in Norway, and has enacted reforms such as parliamentarism, freedom of religion, universal suffrage and state schooling. For most of the late 19th and early 20th century, it was Norway's largest and dominant political party, but in the postwar era it lost most of its support and became a relatively small party. The party has nevertheless participated in several centrist and centre-right government coalitions in the postwar era. It currently holds nine seats in the Parliament, and has a cooperation agreement with the incumbent government parties. Since 2010, the leader of the party is Trine Skei Grande.

The party is regarded as social-liberal[17] and advocates personal freedom under the pre-condition of an active state. Since the 1970s, the party has maintained an environmentalist position, which was an important part of the party profile when it came back to parliament in the 1990s. The Liberal Party was rated the second best party after the Green Party by the environmentalist organisation Framtiden i våre hender.[18] The party is also a strong supporter of multiculturalism, increased labour immigration to Norway, and relaxed integration measures.[19] Overall, it has had a centrist position in the Norwegian political landscape.[20]

Founded in 1884, then with the main support from farmers and progressive members of the bourgeoisie, it was the first political party that came into existence in Norway, and was the dominant government party for several decades. Since the 1880s, the party has seen many internal schisms. A politically moderate and religious wing broke out in 1888 to form the Moderate Liberal Party, and the conservative-liberal faction, including among them the first Prime Minister of Norway Christian Michelsen broke out in 1909 to form the Free-minded Liberal Party (both parties eventually merged into the Conservative Party). The most notable recent schism was in 1972, when the Liberal Party decided to oppose Norwegian membership in the European Economic Community (EEC), and the faction supporting membership broke out and formed the Liberal People's Party.[20]


Venstre is a liberal, social-liberal and centrist party. Through its history it has taken part in both centre-right and pure centrist coalition governments. From 2001 to 2005, it was in a centre-right coalition government with the Conservative Party and Christian Democratic Party; since the 2005 general election, the party has been in opposition. More recently the party has been a proponent of a Blue–green alliance in Norwegian politics, with Venstre constituting the green part.[21][22]

In the last few election campaigns, Venstre's main focus has been on environmental issues, education, small-business and social issues. Venstre advocates higher taxes on activities that damage the environment.[23] Some other issues Venstre advocate are increased labour immigration, abolition of the Church of Norway as the State church, abolishing the wealth and inheritance taxes, and more power to local authorities (kommuner.) At the national convention in 2005, Venstre decided with a margin of only five votes to still oppose Norway joining the European Union, albeit weakly. It prefers continued membership in the European Economic Area. In 2007, Venstre became the first Norwegian party to advocate legal file sharing.[24][25]


The party Venstre was formed in 1884 in connection with the dispute about whether or not to introduce parliamentarism in Norway. Venstre (which means "Left" in Norwegian) was the party advocating parliamentarism, whereas the conservatives, who opposed parliamentarism, formed the party Høyre (which means "Right"). When the fight for parliamentarism was won, Venstre's leader Johan Sverdrup became the first Norwegian prime minister to be appointed on the basis of having the support of a majority in the Storting. Later, Venstre advocated universal suffrage for men, which was achieved in 1898, the break-up of the Swedish-Norwegian Union, which happened in 1905, and universal women's suffrage, which was introduced in 1913. In the first decades after 1884, Venstre formed several governments, interspersed with periods of Høyre-governments. Six different Prime Ministers of Norway have come from Venstre, all of them before 1935. With the growth of Labour Party, Venstre gradually lost ground. The election of 1915 was the last in which Venstre was the largest party and won an outright majority in the Storting. Venstre was further weakened with the formation of Bondepartiet (the present day Centre Party) in 1920, and Christian People's Party in 1933, both of which were formed partly by former Venstre members. After World War II, Venstre has been part of four coalition governments, the most recent one being the second government of Kjell Magne Bondevik from 2001 to 2005.

A dispute over Norwegian membership in the European Community, now the European Union, made the party split up at Røros in 1972, with the people favoring EC membership departing, and forming Liberal People's Party. These included the party leader, Helge Seip, and 9 of the 13 members of parliament. Since then, Venstre has been a fairly small party. The parliamentary group was reduced to two after the 1973 election.

In 1974, Venstre elected the first female leader of a political party in Norway, Eva Kolstad.

Election results continued to be poor for Venstre. Before the 1985 elections, the party announced for the first, and so far only, time that they would support a Labour Party government. At the following election they lost their two remaining seats, and were without representation in the Norwegian Parliament for the first time. In 1988, Venstre was re-united with the splinter party from 1972, now calling itself the Liberal People's Party, but at the elections of 1989, the re-united party again failed to win parliamentary seats. In 1993 the party again failed to achieve the 4% threshold which would make them eligible for the "equalizing" seats in parliament, but Lars Sponheim was elected directly from Hordaland county. (Before the election, Sponheim had made the wager that he would walk across the mountains from his home in Ulvik to the parliament in capital city Oslo if elected—a wager he delivered on, to much good-humoured interest from the press.)

In 1997, Venstre passed the 4% threshold, increasing their seats in parliament to six. As a consequence Venstre also saw their first participation in cabinet since 1973. The party held four seats in the minority first government of Kjell Magne Bondevik. Lars Sponheim became minister of industry and commerce, Odd Einar Dørum; minister of communications, later minister of justice, Guro Fjellanger; minister of environmental protection, and Eldbjørg Løwer; minister of administration, later minister of defense. Mrs. Løwer was the first female minister of defense in Norway. This cabinet resigned in 2000, refusing to accept the Storting's decision to build gas power plants. In 2001, Venstre narrowly failed to reach the 4% threshold, but got two representatives elected, Sponheim and Odd Einar Dørum. However, due to Venstre becoming part of the second coalition government of Kjell Magne Bondevik, with Sponheim and Dørum entering the cabinet, the two were represented in parliament by deputies. The party also got a third member of the cabinet, with the appointment of Torild Skogsholm as Minister of Transport and Communications.

The 2005 elections gave Venstre 5.9% of the vote, their best result since the 1969 elections. Venstre won 6 seats directly, and an additional 4 seats through the 4%+ equalizing system. Due to the majority of the Red-Green Coalition, Venstre became an opposition party.

In the 2009 general elections.[26] Venstre ended up under the 4% threshold for levelling seats, leaving the party with only two seats in parliament, Trine Skei Grande and Borghild Tenden, whereas they had ten seats before the election. The same evening, 14 September 2009, Lars Sponheim announced that he would step down as party leader, as a consequence of the poor result.After the election, the party experienced growth in members. At the party conference in April 2010, Trine Skei Grande was unanimously elected as the new leader of the party.[27]

Venstre climbed over the threshold with 5.2% in the 2013 elections and entered into coalition talks with the Conservative, Christian Democratic, and Progress parties. Venstre and the Christian Democrats decided not to enter the new Solberg Cabinet, thus leaving it without a parliamentary majority, but made a confidence and supply agreement with it.[28]

Name of the party

While the name of the party means Left in Norwegian, the party refers to itself as a centrist party. Since the Centre Party was a component of the governing centre-left Red-Green Coalition, and Venstre was part of the "non-socialist" opposition, a situation has been produced where the centre party is more on the left than Left itself. When the name Left was chosen in 1884, the word did not refer to socialism in the way "Left wing" does today. It meant liberal or radicalism in comparison to the conservatives on the right, and referred to the position of the seats in Parliament. The use of the word for "left" in the names of the Danish political parties Venstre and Radikale Venstre is also meant to refer to liberalism and radicalism rather than socialism.

Party leaders

Prime ministers from Venstre

Election results

Campaign booth at Karl Johans gate ahead of the Norwegian local elections, 2007.
Date Votes Seats Position Size (seats) Notes
# % ± pp # ±
1906 121,562 45.1% + 2.4
73 / 123
Increase 25 Government 1st
1909 128,367 30.4% - 15.0
46 / 123
Decrease 27 Government 2nd opposition from 1910
1912 195,526 40.0% + 9.6
76 / 123
Increase 30 Opposition 1st government from 1913
1915 204,243 33.1% - 6.9
74 / 123
Increase 4 Government 1st
1918 187,657 28.3% - 4.8
51 / 126
Decrease 23 Government 3rd opposition from 1920
1921 181,989 20.1% - 8.2
37 / 150
Decrease 14 Government 3rd opposition from 1923
1924 180,979 18.6% - 1.4
34 / 150
Decrease 3 Government 2nd opposition from 1926
1927 172,568 17.3% - 1.5
30 / 150
Decrease 4 Opposition 3rd government from 1928
1930 241,355 20.2% + 2.9
33 / 150
Increase 3 Government 3rd opposition from 1931
1933 213,153 17.1% - 3.1
24 / 150
Decrease 9 Government 2nd opposition from 1935
1936 232,784 16.0% - 1.1
23 / 150
Decrease 1 Opposition 3rd
1945 204,852 13.8% - 2.2
20 / 150
Decrease 3 Opposition 3rd
1949 218,866* 13.1%* - 0.7
21 / 150
Increase 1 Opposition 3rd
1953 177,662 10.0% - 3.1
15 / 150
Decrease 6 Opposition 3rd
1957 171,407* 9.7%* - 0.3
15 / 150
Steady 0 Opposition 3rd
1961 132,429* 8.8%* - 0.9
14 / 150
Decrease 1 Opposition 4th government in 1963
1965 207,834* 10.4%* + 1.6
18 / 150
Increase 4 Government 3rd
1969 202,553 9.4% - 1.0
13 / 150
Decrease 5 Government 5th opposition 1971 to 1972
1973 49,668* 3.5%* - 5.9
2 / 155
Decrease 11 Opposition 7th
1977 54,243* 3.2%* - 0.3
2 / 155
Steady 0 Opposition 6th
1981 79,064* 3.9%* + 0.7
2 / 155
Steady 0 Opposition 7th
1985 81,202 3.1% - 0.8
0 / 157
Decrease 2 7th
1989 84,740 3.2% + 0.1
0 / 155
Steady 0 7th
1993 88,985 3.6% + 0.4
1 / 165
Increase 1 Opposition 7th
1997 115,077 4.5% + 0.9
6 / 165
Increase 5 Government 7th opposition from 2000
2001 98,486 3.9% - 0.6
2 / 165
Decrease 4 Government 7th
2005 156,113 5.9% + 2.0
10 / 169
Increase 8 Opposition 7th
2009 104,144 3.9% - 2.0
2 / 169
Decrease 8 Opposition 7th
2013 148,275 5.2% + 1.4
9 / 169
Increase 7 Opposition 6th

See also


  1. "10 år med medlemsvekst". Venstre. 13 March 2013.
  2. 1 2 3 Allern, Elin Haugsgjerd (2010). Political Parties and Interest Groups in Norway. ECPR Press. pp. 163–164. ISBN 9780955820366.
  3. 1 2 3 "Norway - Political parties". Norwegian Social Science Data Services. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  4. "Sentrum – politikk". Store norske leksikon. 10 October 2013.
  5. Van Hecke, Steven; Gerard, Emmanuel (2004). Christian Democratic Parties in Europe Since the End of the Cold War. Leuven University Press. p. 231. ISBN 9789058673770.
  6. Love, Juliet; O'Brien, Jillian, eds. (2002). Western Europe 2003. Europa Publications. p. 493. ISBN 9781857431520.
  7. Narud, Hanne Marthe; Esaiasson, Peter, eds. (2013). Between-Election Democracy: The Representative Relationship After Election Day. ECPR Press. p. 86. ISBN 9781907301988.
  8. Centre-Right Wins the Norwegian Parliamentary Election
    'The four centre-right parties, The Conservative Party, The Liberal Party, The Christian Democrats and The Progress Party secured a total of 96 seats against the current coalitions’ 72 seats out of the 169 parliamentary seats'.
    Norway (official UK website).
    Published September 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  9. Norway forms right-wing coalition, including anti-immigrant party
    'Solberg praised her party’s cooperation with the Progress Party but left the door open for the two smaller center-right parties — the Christian Democrats and Liberals — to join the coalition, saying she is eager to work with them, too'.
    The Times of Israel
    Published 1 October 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  10. "Valg 2011: Landsoversikt per parti" (in Norwegian). Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development. Archived from the original on 24 September 2011. Retrieved 18 September 2011.
  11. "Venstre". Valg 2011 (in Norwegian). Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 18 September 2011.
  12. Svante Ersson; Jan-Erik Lane (28 December 1998). Politics and Society in Western Europe. SAGE. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-7619-5862-8. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  13. Christina Bergqvist (1 January 1999). Equal Democracies?: Gender and Politics in the Nordic Countries. Nordic Council of Ministers. p. 320. ISBN 978-82-00-12799-4.
  14. Oyvind Osterud (18 October 2013). Norway in Transition: Transforming a Stable Democracy. Routledge. p. 114. ISBN 978-1-317-97037-8.
  15. Hans Slomp (30 September 2011). Europe, A Political Profile: An American Companion to European Politics: An American Companion to European Politics. ABC-CLIO. p. 425. ISBN 978-0-313-39182-8.
  16. Thompson, Wayne C. (2014). Nordic, Central, and Southeastern Europe 2014. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 55. ISBN 9781475812244.
  17. Venstre TV2/, retrieved 8 April 2013 (Norwegian)
  18. retrieved 11 december 2013
  19. Venstre - Politikk - Integrering
  20. 1 2 Bakken, Laila Ø.; Helljesen, Vilde (24 July 2009). "Venstre - lite parti med stor arv". Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.
  21. Venstre-lederen vil ha makt i blågrønn regjering. NRK. 12.04.2013.
  22. Venstre med «blågrønt» budsjettforslag. Dagbladet. 3. november 2014.
  23. "Venstre official English website". Retrieved 2009-08-06.
  24. "Culture wants to be free!". Retrieved 2007-04-16.
  25. "Slipp kulturen fri! (Norwegian original resolution)". Retrieved 2007-04-17.
  26. Sponheim: - Jeg trekker meg - Nyheter - Politikk -
  27. Skei Grande ny leder i Venstre - nyheter -
  28. Wright, Martin Aasen (30 September 2013). "Her er avtalen mellom de borgerlige partiene" (in Norwegian). Aftenposten. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  29. Tabell 25.3 Stortingsvalg. Godkjente stemmer etter parti1. Prosent

External links

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