Emergency powers for one more month

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Justice Minister Monica Mæland said she was glad Parliament voted to extend the government’s emergency powers by another month on Friday. Called the “Corona law,” it allows the government to act quickly and even set aside various laws and regulations to handle the Corona virus crisis.

Justic Minister Monica Mæland won another month of emergency power to alter or set aside laws during the Corona crisis. PHOTO: Justis- og beredskapsdepartement

“I’m glad the Parliament, by a clear majority, has agreed to extend the law by a month,” Mæland stated in a press release Friday afternoon. “We have seen that the law has been important in order to address situations, both for individuals and for business.” She said the one-month extension, until May 27, was in line with the government’s request.

Mæland added that there “was still a need for the law, for a short period,” even though the emergency powers have stirred criticism in the media and among some Members of Parliament including Bjørnar Moxnes, leader of the Reds.

“The Parliament shouldn’t abdicate, even in crisis times,” Moxnes told newspaper Aftenposten last week when the leader of the opposition, Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre, sought a compromise. “It’s especially in a crisis when we should hang on to our democratic principles.” The Center Party, which shared government power with Labour from 2005 to 2013, also wanted to return to normalcy.

Labour and Progress provided the majority
Both Labour and the Progress Party were in favour of the extension, however.  The law gives the government full power to make various changes in existing law without consulting Parliament, making for an historic departure from Norway’s principles at balancing power. It’s been used for everything from granting state aid to freelancers to halting manual sales of tickets on ferries. The goal has been to expediate solutions to practical problems that have arisen durng the crisis.

Aftenposten editorialized against the extension last week, arguing that the past one month of emergency powers “should be enough” because “it’s highly problematic when the government overturns laws approved by Parliament. That goes against the constitution,” the paper claimed.

Aftenposten also noted how the Parliament has been “especially willing” to work quickly itself during the Corona crisis, and to cooperate with the government.  Mæland, however, stressed that both the government and a majority in Parliament believe the Corona law is working in accordance with its intention. She noted that the majority cautioned that the law “must be used with great caution from here on,” and that there won’t be further need for it beyond May 27.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund