The Centre Party (Norwegian: Senterpartiet, Sp) is an agrarian centrist political party in Norway. Founded in 1920 as a Nordic agrarian party, the Centre Party's policy is not based on any of the major ideologies of the 19th and 20th century, but has a focus on maintaining decentralised economic development and political decision-making.
From its founding until 2000, the party joined only governments not led by the Labour Party (although it supported a Labour-government in the 1930s), but in 2005 turned around and joined the Red-Green coalition government led by the Labour Party. Governments headed by prime ministers from the party include the short-lived Kolstad and Hundseid's Cabinet between 1931 and 1933, and the longer-lasting Borten's Cabinet from 1965 until 1971.
The Centre Party has maintained a hardline stance against Norwegian membership in the European Union, successfully campaigning against Norwegian membership in both the 1972 and 1994 referendums, during which time the party saw record-high election results, which the party subsequently has extended to advocating Norway's withdrawal from the European Economic Area and the Schengen Agreement. The party favours an economically protectionist policy to protect Norwegian farmers with toll tariffs, and has more recently declared Norwegian nationalism a "positive force".
The party was founded at the national convention of the Norsk Landmandsforbund during 17 to 19 June 1920, when it was decided by the association to run for the 1921 parliamentary election. In 1922 the association was renamed to the Norwegian Agrarian Association, and the political activity of the group was separated as the Farmers' Party[note 1] (Bondepartiet).
During the eight decades since the Centre Party was created as a political faction of a Norwegian agrarian organisation, the party has changed a great deal. Only a few years after the creation the party broke with its mother organisation and started developing a policy based on decentralisation, moving away from a single-minded agrarian policy, like that which has trapped many other European Centre Parties' conduct.
The 1930s have in the post-war era been seen as a controversial time in the party's history. This is partly because of Vidkun Quisling, who later became the leader of Nasjonal Samling, was Minister of Defence in the Farmers Party Kolstad and Hundseid cabinets from 1931-1933. Quisling was however not a member of the Farmers Party. While there were fascist sympathies among parts of the Farmers Party's electorate, the Farmers Party itself never supported fascism. It was after all the Farmers Party that enabled the first stable Labour cabinet in Norway. In 1935, they reached a compromise with the Labour Party, which led to the Nygaardsvold Cabinet. In addition, the Farmers Party was represented in the war-time cabinet by Anders Fjeldstad, who served as a consultative councillor of state. Political scientist Trond Nordby have said that the Farmers' Party has been given an undeservably bad reputation from this time, and that the party was not really "as dark brown as some claim".
In 1959, the party briefly changed their name to the "Norwegian Democratic Party — Democrats" (Norsk Folkestyreparti - Demokratene), but soon had to change the name again due to election technicalities. In June 1959 the name was changed to the current Centre Party. This happened out of the need to attract an additional electorate with the continuing decline of the agrarian share of the population. The party's membership numbers peaked at 70,000 in 1971. From 1927 to 1999, the party published the newspaper Fylket.
In local elections, the party has enjoyed strong support in several small municipalities, where the party has a strong influence. After the 2007 elections, 83 of the mayors in Norway represent the Centre Party. Only the Labour Party has more mayors, and relative to party size, the Centre Party has more mayors than any other.
The Centre Party had been a part of both centrist and centre-right coalition governments from 1963 to 2000 and in six governments, one of which was led by a Prime Minister from the party.
Since the 2005 parliamentary election, the party ran for government together with the Labour Party and the Socialist Left Party, as the Red-Green Coalition, with the Centre Party constituting the "green" part of the alliance. The coalition was successful in winning the majority of the seats in the Storting, and negotiations followed with the aim of forming a coalition cabinet led by the Labour Party's leader Jens Stoltenberg. These negotiations succeeded and the Centre Party entered the Second Stoltenberg Cabinet on 17 October 2005 with four ministers. The Red-Greens were re-elected to government in the 2009 election. It has been argued that the party's ideology moved more towards social democracy in the end of the 1980s.
The party is known in Norway for their support of high toll tariffs on foreign cheese and meat, called "toll protection", and their proposal to shoot all wolves in Norway. In late 2012 the Centre Party caused controversy in Norway when it emerged that the party had demanded higher import tariffs on meat and hard cheeses to protect Norwegian farmers from foreign competition. This included increased duties of 429% on lamb, 344% on beef, and 277% on all but 14 exempted hard cheeses.
Governments led by Centre Party Prime Ministers:
With Prime Ministers from other parties:
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