Liberal Party (Norway)

Liberal Party
Leader Trine Skei Grande
Parliamentary leader Trine Skei Grande
Founded 1884
Headquarters Oslo
Youth wing Young Liberals of Norway
Membership 10,000 (peak, 1980s)
8,544 (2009)[1]
Ideology Liberalism[2]
Social liberalism[3][2]
Political position Centre[3]
International affiliation Liberal International
European affiliation European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party
Official colours Green
2 / 169
County Councils[5]
46 / 728
Municipal / City Councils[6]
640 / 10,781
Sami Parliament
0 / 39
Politics of Norway
Political parties

The Liberal Party (Norwegian: Venstre, V, meaning "left") is a liberal political party in Norway. The party is the oldest in the country, and has enacted reforms such as parliamentarism, freedom of religion, universal suffrage and free education. Since 2010, the leader of the party is Trine Skei Grande. Having initially been a major party in Norway, it has in recent times become marginalized, and has struggled to get above the election threshold.

The party is regarded as social liberal, and advocate personal freedom under the pre-condition of an active state. Since the 1970s, the party has maintained a environmentalist position, which was an important part of the party profile when it came back to parliament in the 1990s. Overall, it has had a centrist position in the Norwegian political landscape.[7] The party is also a strong supporter of multiculturalism, increased labour immigration to Norway, and relaxed integration measures.[8]

Founded in 1884, then with the main support from farmers and city radicals, it was the first political party that came into existence in Norway. Since the 1880s, the party has seen many internal schisms, which has always concluded with the slow death of the moderate wings, while the radical wing has lived on. The most notable recent schism was in 1972, when the Liberal Party decided to oppose Norwegian membership in the European Union, and the faction supporting membership broke out and formed the Liberal People's Party. The party lost much of its support in the post-war era, but has participated in numerous centrist and centre-right government coalitions. Since the 1960s, the party has only come above the threshold twice, and from 1985 to 1993, the party was not represented in Parliament.[7]



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; after the 2005 election, it is now in opposition.

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.[9] The party advocates a reform of the Norwegian welfare state through a guaranteed minimum income (Borgerlønn) for all citizens. Some other issues Venstre advocate are increased labour immigration, abolition of the Church of Norway as the State church, an approach to a system of Flat tax with deductions 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.[10][11]


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 Arbeiderpartiet (the 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 farmers' party, the present day Senterpartiet) in 1920, and Kristelig Folkeparti (Christian peoples' 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 Det Liberale Folkepartiet (The 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 Det Liberale Folkepartiet (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.

On the evening of 14 September 2009, Lars Sponheim announced that he would step down as party leader, as a consequence of the poor result his party to be achieved in the 2009 general elections.[12] 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. After the election, the party started experiencing a formidable growth in members. Days after the election, the number of paying members grew by more than 20%. At the party conference in April 2010, Trine Skei Grande was unanimously elected as the new leader of the party.[13]

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 Senterpartiet (The Centre Party) is a component of the governing left alliance, and Venstre is 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 radical 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 not Socialism.

The term originates from the French Revolution, when liberal deputies from the Third Estate generally sat to the left of the president's chair, a habit which began in the Estates General of 1789. The nobility, members of the Second Estate, generally sat to the right.

Party leaders

Prime ministers from Venstre

Election results

General election results
Campaign booth at Karl Johans gate ahead of the Norwegian local elections, 2007.
Year Vote % MPs
1906 45,4%
1909 30,7%
1912 40,2%
1915 33,3%
1918 28,3%
1921 20,1%
1924 19,6%
1927 17,3%
1930 20,2%
1933 17,1%
1936 16,0%
1945 13,8%
1949 13,1%
1953 10,0%
1957 9,7%
1961 8,8%
1965 10,4%
1969 9,4%
1973 3,5%
1977 3,2%
1981 3,9%
1985 3,1%
1989 3,2%
1993 3,6%
1997 4,5%
2001 3,9%
2005 5,9%
2009 3,9%

See also


  1. ^ "Medlemsvekst for 8. år på rad". Venstre. 13 December 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Den sosiale liberalismen". 
  3. ^ a b c "Political parties". CivicActive. Retrieved 27 January 2010. 
  4. ^ Venstre - Innvandring
  5. ^ "Valg 2011: Landsoversikt per parti" (in Norwegian). Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development. Retrieved 18 September 2011. 
  6. ^ "Venstre" (in Norwegian). Valg 2011. Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 18 September 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Bakken, Laila Ø.; Helljesen, Vilde (24 July 2009). "Venstre - lite parti med stor arv". Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. 
  8. ^ Venstre - Politikk - Integrering
  9. ^ "Venstre official English website". Retrieved 2009-08-06. 
  10. ^ "Culture wants to be free!". Retrieved 2007-04-16. 
  11. ^ "Slipp kulturen fri! (Norwegian original resolution)". Retrieved 2007-04-17. 
  12. ^ Sponheim: - Jeg trekker meg - Nyheter - Politikk -
  13. ^ Skei Grande ny leder i Venstre - nyheter -

External links

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