Monday, 3 October 2011

King opens 156th Parliament

The State Opening of Parliament, which takes place on the second weekday of October (except in election years), is a certain sign of autumn and today the 156th Parliament was opened by the King, accompanied, as is usual, by the Queen and the Crown Prince.
Nowadays Norway is one of only three European monarchies, the other being Britain and the Netherlands, to let Parliament be opened with all the traditional pomp and circumstance. Except for minor changes, such as where the Queen sits, the ceremony in the Parliament Chamber has been the exact same since independence in 1814.
As usual the monarch, standing in front of the throne, read the King’s Speech, which is written by the government and sets out the policy of the government in the coming year. Thereafter the most junior minister reads a speech on the state of the nation, i.e. what has been done in the year that passed, and finally the Speaker of Parliament gives a short speech. The King’s Speech may be read in its entirety here (external link).
The State Opening of Parliament is the only time the King is allowed to be present in the Parliament Building, as the Constitution says that no parliamentary debates can take place in the presence of the monarch. This year has seen an unusual exception from this in that the King and the Crown Prince were present at the commemoration held in the Parliament Chamber following the terrorist attacks on 22 July.
(If someone wonders why this is only the 156th Parliament, considering that Norway has been independent for 197 years, the explanation is that until 1871 Parliament was only held every third year and that there were obviously no Parliament during the German occupation).

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