Could Donald Trump Get Elected in Norway?

Basically the question is whether a rich guy with zero political experience could have gotten elected in Norway.

The short answer is No. But lets look at why.

The clue is the difference in the election system between Norway and the US, which I covered in my previous medium story. US elections start with several candidates competing to be the candidate for their party. Registered democrats will vote for the democratic candidate and registered republicans will vote for the republican candidate for president.

This is what allows mavericks to enter politics in the US. Somebody with little or no experience in politics can enter the race and win the hearts of the voters. This is not only what the world Donald Trump but also what allowed a fairly unknown politician like Barack Obama to win the elections as well.

For better or worse the same outcome would be hard to replicate in the Norwegian system. Mavericks have a though time. Say a billionaire wanted to be elected prime minster in Norway, how would he do it?

The first major obstacle is that the prime minister as discussed in the previous story, isn’t elected directly. Parties are elected and single party may not gain majority. In this case a coalition partners in a government will negotiate who will get the different ministers, such as minister of finance, foreign affairs, justice etc. The prime minister position is just one of many other positions negotiated over. That is why the prime minister is considered the first among equals.

It means a Norwegian Trump would have two options. He could like American Trump, join an existing party like the conservatives. However unlike the US, there would be no way for him to get selected as the prime minister candidate for the conservative party by appealing directly to conservative voters.

It would be conservative party members who would vote him into that position. That is unlikely, just as it was unlikely that the republican party itself would have voted on Trump as their candidate.

That leaves wannabe Norwegian Trump with the second option, which is to form a new political party, with himself as the leader. One might think that is easy of his a billionaire. Just like an American presidential candidate can just spend lots of money to get a big election campaign going.

Except that only works, when you select a single guy. To win Norwegian Trump would need to get a majority of parliamentary members from his party winning in the various provinces of Norway. That is highly unlikely as you can’t build up a whole party with representatives present in all provinces in short time. Building a whole party is a much slower process than jumping into presidential race.

Norwegian Trump, unlike American Trump would actually have to formulate a coherent political platform for his party, and then gradually attract politicians around the country who believed in this program and was willing to campaign for it in all the various provinces. He could not get these politicians by simply spending money. It would have to be people who join because they believe in the politics of his party.

No Clinton Effect

American Trump, could win because a lot of voters disliked Hillary Clinton and either chose to not vote or voted on who they perceived as the lesser evil.

That would have been hard for Norwegian Trump, because voters could always vote for any number of other parties. Once elections were over those other parties would have been unlikely to accept the formation of a coalition with somebody like Donald Trump.

And if they indeed had, the coalition would not have lived very long. In the US ending a presidency requires impeachment. In a parliamentary system, a coalition partner can simply decide they don’t like the government they are part of and quit.

The parliament may also give a vote of no confidence, which is a lot simpler than impeachment. Parliament doesn’t need to prove any kind of misconduct by the prime minister. All they are saying is basically that they have no faith in the prime minister and his government.

What about Silvio Berlusconi?

One objection to my assertion that a Trump like candidate could not win a Norwegian election is a that a very similar kind of candidate, Silvio Berlusconi became prime minister in Italy on several occasions.

Berlusconi did take the path of creating a new party. However he did en up initially as I described with the problem of coalition governments. He only laster a very short time when he initially became prime minister because his coalition partner lost faith in him. This was a semi-regular occurrence on all his re-elections.

Without knowing Italian politics very well, I would still venture to guess that Silvio Berlusconi was simply more talented and had more staying power than Donald Trump. To keep winning and building his party he had to form several political alliances. Another factor was that unlike Norwegian politics, Italian politics has for years been plagued by chaos, scandals and short lived governments.

That likely made it easier for an outsider to gain a foothold.

What About Adolph Hitler?

I could be argued that a parliamentary system produced a much worse candidate than Donald Trump, namely Hitler. However my argument is not that parliamentary systems prevent extremists entirely, rather that they can’t assume power quickly.

Hitler had to spend many years to build up the Nazi party. Being able to hold popular speeches was not enough. He needed a coherent political program to attract members and which other party members could promote. Trump is much more of a one man show, which doesn’t rely on a solid political program to the same extent.

Based on what is known about the Trump administration today, he doesn’t seem to be a very good leader or organizer. People might object and point to Trump’s business empire. However those who know this organization claim this is not a very large organization. Creating something like the German Nazi Party required much better and more long term organization skills.

A key part of the Nazi party was also the SA, which actually existed in a form before the Nazi party. Germany essentially had large groups of militia like the US. These were essentially mercenaries from previous wars, which tended to hold nationalistic and extreme views. Hitler was able to coax these groups to his cause. They were key in throwing out protesters from his rallies using violence.

They also fomented chaos and violence in German cities, which Hitler could use to argue that law and order was needed. Ironically he was largely responsible for these problems.



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Erik Engheim

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.