The concept of a political centre stems from the days of the French Revolution, when political right, left and centre entered into the language. The word “centre” is used to identify politics situated in the middle of the political spectrum – politics which distances itself from extremes and which will actively seek to find unifying political solutions.
But the Centre Party can also trace its roots back to the farmers’ battle to improve their conditions of life and their fight against the autocracy of the civil service.
Establishment of the party
The establishment of the Farmers’ Association, Norsk Landmannsforbund (later to become Norges Bondelag) in 1896 was an expression of strong mistrust of the two big political parties, the Conservative Party (Høyre) and the Liberal Party (Venstre). Norsk Landmannsforbund was established primarily to enhance the economic conditions of the farmers, but already at the beginning of 1900 the idea of creating a political “farmers party” started to come up for discussion. In 1919 Norsk Landmannsforbund established a committee which was given the task of making an informed decision about whether or not to continue the political activities of the association.
In spite of the fact that the majority of the committee members were against the establishment of a farmer’s party, the result from the National Congress in 1920 was a resolution stipulating: “Norsk Landsmannsforbund will turn itself into a political party”. Bondepartiet (The Farmers’ Party) was born, although its name was first used in 1922.
From Farmers’ Party to the Centre Party
The Farmers’ Party was established primarily in order to fight politically for certain economic policies favouring farmers. The Farmers` Party wanted to change the current and favour agriculture, fisheries, and forestry, ie, “to promote the interests of the rural areas and take possession of our own country”. During the first few years between World War I and World War II, the party adopted the strategy of “through concentrating on saving we shall get rid of the current crisis” – but slowly doubts set in as to whether this indeed was the best strategy, in particular after the Farmers’ Party came into power in 1931.
The change in strategy occurred because of the agreement between the Farmers’ Party and Labour in 1935 , into which the parties entered in order to end the current economic crisis. Through this agreement the agricultural policies put forward by the Farmers’ Party were adopted, while at the same time, the Labour Party’s (Arbeiderpartiet) more expansive economic policies, financed through a higher sales tax, were also adopted.
After the Second World War the party was on a downward slope, but there was a way back upwards through a wider involvement in the fight for equality between the different economic livelihoods, for the same social benefits for all, against the closing down of schools, and against the merging of municipolity effectuated in spite of protests from local communities. Thus, the party was building a much broader identity than what would normally be associated with the identity of the Farmers’ (Party).
The Centre Party from 1959
In 1959 the ambitions of turning the party into a liberal party in the centre of the political spectrum in order to attract a broader range of voters, led to a change of name, in spite of the fact that the party organisation was of the opinion that the Centre’ Party was indeed the best suited name.
In government and the fight against the EEC
During the period after the Second World War and up till 1973, the Centre Party experienced steady growth and progress at each election (21 MPs in 1973). The idea of decentralisation became more and more central in the party ideology, and at the National Congress in 1965, the first Programme of Principles was adopted. The programme was entitled: “Will to assume responsibility” and the catch phrase was: “decentralisation of people, power and capital”.
After the 1965 elections the long hegemony of the Labour Party ended with a government led by the Centre Party Chairman Borten taking over. This government was a coalition between the Conservative Party, the Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti) and the Liberal Party. This government was dissolved in 1971 because of the irreconcilable positions of the members of the coalition with regards to European Common Market (EEC). After the dissolution of the government, the Centre Party came out strongly against Norway joining the EEC, and therefore was amongst the “winners” of the Referendum of 1972.
In the period after the end of the EEC battles, the party once again was set on a downward slope, with the number of MPs almost halved from 21 in 1973 to 12 in 1977. During the eighties the party stabilised at 6.5 percent and the number of MPs varied between 11 and 12.
During the eighties the party was in power on two occasions: the extended government led by Conservative Party Chairman Willoch from 1983-86 and in the government led by Conservative Party Chairman Syse from 1989-1990.
As EEC (new EU) again became a hot issue in 1990, the Centre Party experienced an increase of supporters. At the local elections in 1991 the party had the best election results since the Second World War, and achieved 12 percent at the Regional Parliament level. Giving even more cause to rejoice, the party increased support in the cities and again secured seats in the city councils of the largest cities of Norway.
Progress continued steadily. During the 1993 national elections, the political scene was hit by a political earthquake and the Centre Party obtained representation from all 19 regions, a total of 32 MPs, and thus became the second biggest party in the Parliament , with 16.7 percent of the votes. The party continued its independent path as an alternative to both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. Decentralisation, regional development, the environment, social equality and responsible management/administration are central issues within the party. The strong and clear involvement of the party in the EU-issue should be seen as a defence of those central issues and values.
Prior to the 1997 national elections, the party formulated the aim to establish a government of the political centre. The party lost voters in the elections, but the goal of a government of the political centre was achieved. The minority coalition government between the Liberal Party, the Centre Party and the Christian Democrats, headed by the Christian Democrats Chairman, managed to keep afloat – in spite of dire predictions and an extreme lack of cooperative spirit from the majority in Parliament – until March 2000, thus proving that a coalition of the political centre was a viable option. Even after the fall of the minority coalition government, the parties of the political centre continued to cooperate.
Hence, in the elections of 2001 the Centre Party went to the polls on a ticket with a coalition of the political left as an alternative for government. The results of the elections led to the Centre Party losing its privileged position of arbiter from where it could easily tip the balance and decide important issues, and the Christian Democrats and the Liberal Party formed a coalition government with the Conservative Party. Hence the Centre Party was left as the sole defender of the political centre in the Parliament. The party was clearly in opposition to the politics implemented by the majority in Parliament. The Centre Party aims of achieving local democracy, decentralisation, viable regions, local enterprise, social equality, responsible management and sustainable development were seriously challenged.
In the period prior to the 2005 National Elections, it became steadily clearer to all the Centre Party representatives, people holding positions of trust in the party, and all the Centre Party voters, that a coalition government dominated by the political right was totally detrimental to the political aims of the Centre Party.
As a result of this there gradually emerged a wish to form an alliance which would enhance a move in the direction of more Centre Party politics. An alliance with the Labour Party and the Socialist Left Party was unanimously agreed to by the National Congress in March 2005. The Centre Party thus for the first time went to the polls with a clearly stated aim of forming a red/green majority coalition government. The red/green alliance won the elections and won a majority in the parliament. The Norwegian Centre Party took in October seet in the new red/green majority coalition government.
The Centre Party of Norway have now been participants in a majority red/green alliance government since October 2005. Norway had an parliament election the 14. of September this year.
The red/green alliance won the elections and regain majority in the parliament. After the election a platform for government was negotiated where the Centre Party gained acceptance for a lot of “our” issues.
The Norwegian Centre Party now heads four ministries: Regional Development, Transport and Communication, Oil and Energy, and Agriculture and Food, in addition to having deputy ministers in the Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Finance.
Here are some of the main issues The Norwegian Centre Party put foreward in the election campain:
Our heart is beating for the whole of the country
In the parliamentary period from 2009 - 2013, the Centre Party has grand visions for our country. In times of climatic crisis, food crisis and financial crisis, the Centre Party solutions are more necessary than ever before. The blind faith in the market solving all problems has shown itself not workable, and people are clamouring for more political and democratic control. The Centre Party will not leave political decisions to market forces, but will make it possible for people themselves to make decisions as to what kind of society we shall have.
The Centre Party is impatient and we want to get going! We are asking you to state your confidence in us to allow us to continue our project of building the country. We will push for more money to build roads, railway and super broadband. We want more environmental and climate friendly energy as well as establishing a green industry with focus on small and medium sized enterprises. There are still many tasks not yet completed and so the Centre Party is ready to make efforts to achieve further improvements in transport, communication and infrastructure, employment opportunities all over the country and good schools and good care there where you live.
Better transport and communication – where you live
We have shown that the Centre Party will build the country through increased focus on transport and communication. Roads and railways are important both for people and for our economy. The Centre Party wants to transfer more goods onto the railways, and we want roads which make it possible for the products from the enterprises to reach their markets. Green transport and communication policies where public transport is the first priority choice for a larger number of people and where the roads are contributing towards a safer and more environmental friendly use of vehicles, are crucial if we are to achieve a reduction in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. Investing in transport and communication infrastructure signifies investing in our future!
Greener economy and industry – where you live
The climate crisis makes it necessary to focus much more on environmental friendly energy, and we need enterprises which develop technology capable of reducing emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The Centre Party wants thousands of new jobs linked to renewable energy and to green industry. We want an economy and industry with a vision for the future and which enables us to solve our climatic problems. We must invest in knowledge, and enable, both economically and with respect to knowledge, the small and medium sized enterprises to develop new technology and competence.
School and care – where you live
Care and school must be public responsibility and everybody shall have good schools and good old people’s care where they live. The Centre Party will strengthen the economy of the municipalities to enable these to offer good welfare services to their inhabitants. We need the kind of care which helps people where they live and which makes everybody feel safe and secure. We need the kind of schools which place knowledge in the driver’s seat and give the teacher room and time to teach, and where children and youth are given the opportunity of applying their skills.
A strong Centre Party in another red-green government
We have achieved a lot of Centre Party politics in the coalition government, and have obtained results which are important for the entire country. With the Centre Party in government there has been improvement in transport and communication with respect to both roads and railways, as well as a strengthened municipal economy and increased income opportunities in the agricultural sector. We have continued our fight against EU, made sure that Norwegian hydraulic power resources are still on Norwegian public hands, and we have reintroduced differentiated employer’s national insurance contribution. The Centre Party brand of solutions is highly needed and we wish for a stronger Centre Party in order to obtain even better results. The Centre Party is the most significant party fighting against EU and we want to ensure that there is continued high pressure on our most important issues so that people all over the country are given equal opportunities to live and work where they want.