Disputas: Kristoffer Kolltveit

Master i statsvitenskap Kristoffer Kolltveit ved Institutt for statsvitenskap vil forsvare sin avhandling for graden ph.d.: Cabinet Decision-making and Concentration of Power: A study of the Norwegian executive centre.

Kristoffer Kolltveit, Institutt for statsvitenskap.

Tid og sted for prøveforelesning

Fredag 15. november 2013 kl. 10.15 - 11.00, Theologisk eksamenssal i Domus Academica, Universitetet i Oslo.

Tema for prøveforelesning: Compare the Norwegian and Swedish ministerial organization, including the principles of ministerial and cabinet responsibility. Discuss possible implications for policy coordination.



  • Førsteopponent: Dr. Anchrit Wille, Institutt for offentlig administrasjon, Leiden University
  • Annenopponent: Førsteamanuensis Thomas Persson, Statsvetenskapliga institutionen, Uppsala universitet
  • Professor Morten Egeberg, Institutt for statsvitenskap, Universitetet i Oslo (komiteens koordinator)

Leder av disputas

Professor Tore Hansen


  • Professor Dag Ingvar Jacobsen, Institutt for statsvitenskap og ledelsesfag, Universitetet i Agder
  • Professor Tom Christensen, Institutt for statsvitenskap, Universitetet i Oslo


Cabinet Decision-making and Concentration of Power: A study of the Norwegian executive centre

Decision-making in cabinet lies at the heart of the policymaking process in parliamentary democracies. It has been widely claimed that cabinets over the last decades have come under pressure from different directions. Decision-making power has been delegated upwards to supranational organisations, and tasks have been moved out of ministries to underlying directorates and to single-purpose organisations, making the public sector more fragmented and sectorised. Several strains of research deal with how such developments have led to a centralisation of authority or to a concentration of decision-making power, often around the chief executives. In this PhD dissertation, the presidentialisation thesis is taken as a theoretical point of departure. The article-based dissertation consists of an introductory part and four empirical articles analysing how and why such changes might appear in Norway, a country that traditionally has been characterised by collegiality and consensus in the executive centre. Drawing on various internal cabinet documents and on interviews with former Norwegian ministers, chiefs of staff, and secretaries general, the dissertation finds solid evidence for change in cabinet decision-making over the last three decades in Norway. However, not entirely as expected from the presidentialisation thesis.

The first article has been published in Scandinavian Political Studies (2012). The article examines change using three indicators: the background of ministers, reshuffles in cabinet, and resources devoted to the prime minister. Over the last 30 years, Norwegian ministers have not become weaker, nor have they been more frequently reshuffled. However, there has been an increase in staff at the Prime Minister’s Office. The article thus suggests that there is mixed empirical support for the presidentialisation thesis in Norway.

Drawing on interviews with former ministers, the second article examines more carefully the actual decision-making in cabinet. Looking at developments over the last decades, the collegial nature of Norwegian cabinets has been challenged. The so-called cabinet subcommittee, consisting of the prime minister and coalition party leaders, has become increasingly important and formalised in cabinet decision-making. However, there is little support for the hypothesised decrease in direct involvement by leading party actors. It seems like prime ministers and coalition partners still govern with parties in Norway, and not past parties as expected by the presidentialisation thesis.

The third article tries to explain the strengthening of the executive centre in Norway. Drawing on the number of cabinet meetings and issues, the dissertation shows how the workload of Norwegian cabinets has increased. The appointment of a coordination minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and the increased importance of the cabinet subcommittee should thus be seen in relation to how cabinet decision-making has developed over the last three decades. However, the need for alternative decision-making arenas has also been affected by the number of parties in cabinet.

The importance of number of parties is further elaborated in the fourth article, accepted for publication in Acta Politica. The article tries to unpack the party political context by investigating how the number of parties, the political fragility, and parliamentary basis, have affected changes in the Norwegian executive centre. Drawing on interviews with former ministers and secretaries general, the article finds that the number of parties in cabinet has affected the use of the cabinet collective and the institutionalisation of inner circles in Norway. The political differences between participating parties, political preparations, and allocation of portfolios also seem to have affected the concentration of decision-making power. Finally, the concentration of power has also been affected by the cabinet’s parliamentary basis. However, given the study’s design, it is difficult to clearly distinguish the impact of the various features of cabinet.

Overall, although presidentialisation does not seem to be a fitting description of the observed changes in Norway, an important conclusion from the dissertation is that there has been a concentration of power in Norwegian cabinets over the last decades.

Publisert 16. okt. 2013 10:40 - Sist endret 5. nov. 2013 13:50