Politics flare over palace banquet

Parliamentary leaders are being asked to consider whether Members of Parliament (MPs) should be forced to accept invitations to dinner at the Royal Palace. A few MPs declined to sit at King Harald’s table Thursday evening, sparking debate and claims they’re being “childish.”

A lot of official cars were expected to arrive at the Royal Palace in Oslo Thursday evening, for the monarch's annual dinner for Members of Parliament. PHOTO: Views and News

Neither Gina Barstad nor Snorre Valen wanted to join all their other fellow members of Parliament when they gathered for the annual “Stortingsmiddagen” hosted by King Harald and Queen Sonja. Barstad and Valen, both from the Socialist Left (SV) party, favour a republic over a monarchy and think it would be wrong for them to participate in a banquet at the palace.

“Saying ‘no thank you’ is something that several other MPs from SV have done before me, and my opinion is that each MP must make their own decision,” Barstad told newspaper Aftenposten. She noted that SV as a party is also against the monarchy as a matter of principle.

Valen said he had no desire “to take part in a ceremonial celebration of the monarchy, which is an undemocratic institution.” He said he also had another commitment on Thursday night, to deliver a speech at an SV party meeting in Oslo. A third MP for SV, Aksel Hagen, also declined the invitation to dine at the palace on Thursday but did attend last year.

Linda Hofstad Helleland of the Conservative Party (Høyre) think’s it’s “barnslig” (childish) not to accept the royal invitation. “When King Harald invites for an annual get-together, we should accept to show him and the monarchy some respect,” Hofstad Helleland told Aftenposten.

Newspaper Adresseavisen reported that she sent a letter to the president of the parliament, Dag Terje Andersen, asking him to “strongly urge” all MPs “to show respect for the king and the monarchy.” Hofstad Helleland feels it’s the duty of an elected official to attend the annual palace dinner.

“We invite the king for the opening of the parliament once a year, and he comes,” she said. “Then we should also come on the one day of the year when we’re invited to the palace.”

Andersen said he already does urge MPs to attend, but that attendance is not obligatory.

King Haakon VII held the first dinner for MPs in 1906, the year after he assumed the throne in Norway. It’s been held every year since, except during World War II, and around 225 representatives of the public sector now attend. King Harald’s sister, Princess Astrid, was also planning to attend Thursday evening, along with Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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