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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Monarch hailed as a ‘moral authority’

Norway’s King Harald V now ranks as Europe’s oldest monarch, and he could celebrate his 87th birthday this week knowing that a solid majority of Norwegians support the monarchy. They also don’t want him to abdicate like the Danish queen did last month.

King Harald V and Queen Sonja, shown leaving Parliament after its formal opening last fall. PHOTO: Stortinget/Morten Brakestad

King Harald himself has said he gave an oath to Parliament that he’d remain in his role for the rest of his life. A new public opinion poll shows that 64 percent want him to continue, while only 22 percent think he should retire and hand over his role to his son, Crown Prince Haakon.

The poll, conducted by research firm Norstat for Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), also indicates that fully 72 percent of Norwegians still support the monarchy. That’s down from 81 percent in 2017, and 78 percent in 2022, but only 16 percent want to abolish Norway’s constitutional monarchy and turn the country into a republic. The remaining 11 percent were unsure.

Even Norway’s most left-leaning newspaper, not known for backing the pomp and circumstance of royalty, published a commentary on the king’s birthday on Wednesday noting that while King Harald has no political power, he has “won moral authority” in the country.

King Harald delivering he latest address to the nation on New Year’s Eve. PHOTO: Det kongelige hoff/Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen

Professor Rune Slagstad wrote that in a country recently troubled by some political scandals and even satires about them past and present, King Harald offers a different perspective that emphasizes fellowship and “the collective ‘we'” in Norway. Slagstad noted that King Harald made a point of referring to “we” several times in his annual New Year’s address, calling it “a little but lovely word” that’s encompasses the opposite of polarization and pitting “us against them.” He called on Norwegians to “take care of the confidence we have in each other,” and Slagstad found that especially important.

Tracing historical patterns of power, Slagstad cited the power of communication and King Harald’s own ability to communicate directly while striving to avoid any sign of political preferences. Sometimes they sneak through, though, like when he said in his latest New Year’s address that he shared Norwegian youth’s concern “for the nature and our earth,” along with their impatience. “We now need everyone’s impatience before time runs out for us,” King Harald said. “I can’t express that strongly enough.”

It was a subtle scolding of politicians who aren’t meeting climate goals or preserving nature. King Harald has also made important speeches in which he made amends for past injustices against those resistance fighters during the war who didn’t receive enough credit because they were communists, or against Norway’s indigenous Sami people. It was King Harald’s invitation for a chat inside the Royal Palace last year that gave Sami demonstrators the recognition they needed while fighting for their human rights. Slagstad wrote that it’s the king who, through his speeches, can lead the way.

The recent polls showed a decline in support for the monarchy among the youngest Norwegians questioned, those aged 18-29. Fully 82 percent of them supported the monarchy in 2017 but only 62 percent do now. At the same time, 20 percent were uncertain, indicating they’re not negative but are pondering the issue. Another 19 percent responded that they want another form of govenrment.

Flags flew as always on the royal birthday, and the canons roared at precisely noon. The Royal Palace announced that King Harald was celebrating his birthday privately, with a trip abroad that hs left Crown Prince Haakon officially serving as regent until March 1.

NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

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