Monday, August 6, 2007

Last Full Day in Norway


A couple of places on today’s itinerary (Historical Museum and the Doga Norwegian Centre for Architecture and Design) weren’t open. So we substituted a ferry boat tour around the Oslo Fjord.

But first, the Parliament (Stortinget). After a re-telling of Norway political history 101 by the tour guide, he led us into the central chambers of the Norwegian Parliament (Storting). Every four years, Norway’s voters elect (in19 geographical districts - counties) 169 members to the Storting. Using proportional representation of votes cast for parties within the districts, the party representation within districts is determined. The parties chose 169 members who assemble and constitute themselves about a week after the election. One quarter (42) of the members are elected to the Lagting. The remaining three-quarters (127) become members of the Odeling. Around 100-150 laws originate each year in the Odeling, are debated, passed, and sent to the Lagting. If approved by the Lagting, they are sent to the King for his Royal Assent and the Prime Minister for his signature. Of course, it’s much more complex if the law is the budget, or if the Odeling or the Lagting disagree on the content of the proposed law. But you get the point. Kind of like our system, but without the direct election of the legislative or executive branches.

I found three things of interest. First, the members can’t abstain from voting. It’s a yea or nay vote (green or red buttons at their chair). Second, they can’t comment from their chairs. The have to get recognized by the parliamentarian, wait their turn, and walk down to the main podium. Even if it’s a single question or comment. The physical exercise alone would make that a good idea, and it might even reduce the inane parliamentary bantering we have in the U.S. Finally, if the Lagting disapproves a law twice, the requirement for passage in the Odeling goes from a majority to two-thirds of the votes. In the U.S, we routinely send idiotic bills from the House of Representatives to the Senate – because we know the Senate will not pass them. It gives House members the ability to go back to their districts and blame the Senate. Lousy bills return each year, and the Senate kills them very predictably. This kind of rule would restrict that considerably. Of course, there’s also the fact that this system really turns the choice of political players over to the political parties. We don’t really have parties anymore, just players.

We then walked up into a neighborhood we’d read about Grunerlokka) which houses many of the new immigrants of Oslo. Near a central park, we had lunch at a bistro. Deciding to go back to the city center on a trolley, we talked with a young exchange student at the trolley stop who’d just returned from a stay in Santa Cruz.

Out in front of the city hall, we bought tickets to the 2-hour boat tour beginning in 90 minutes, and passed the time people-watching from a bench in the large plaza. The boat tour was pleasant, but not so full of the city sites. Mostly, the surrounding islands and peninsulas full of summer cabins and all kinds of pleasure boats. Afterward, we walked back to our hotel, pausing for dinner at a Dolly Dimple (a chain we’d seen since Lillehammer that intrigued us). On the final stretch home, we checked out our train connection to the airport tomorrow morning.

Another trip would include: 1) more of Sweden and especially Gotland; 2) far north of Norway; and 3) probably Iceland.

Here is a link to all of the photos we took today: Last Day


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