Dag Arne Christensen, "Adaptation of Agrarian Parties in
Norway and Sweden," Party Politics, 3 (July 1997),
Agrarian parties are interesting phenomena in two ways:
first because of their mere existence, and second because of
their survival within an industrial setting. Originally
formed to articulate the interests of the farmers in the
party system, the period since the Second World War has left
the two agrarian parties of Norway and Sweden in a situation
of uncertainty. The extensive structural rationalization of
farm holdings in both countries has forced the parties to
expand their electoral appeal or face inevitable decline.
Both parties changed their names in the late 1950s as a
symbol of redefinition of party identity. After a long
discussion the Swedish party changed its name in 1957 from
the Agrarian Party (Bondeforbundet) to the Centre Party
(Centerpartiet). Two years later its Norwegian sister party,
Bondepartiet, also renamed itself as the Centre Party
(Senterpartiet) (Elder and Gooderham, 1978).\
Figures and Tables:
Figure 1: Electoral support for the agrarian parties in
Norway and Sweden, 1917-1993.
Figure 2: Amount of space in party manifestos used on
regional policy, environment and agriculture 1945-89
(percent): (a) Sweden; (b) Norway.
Table 1: Space devoted to agriculture, fisheries and
forestry relative to industry in party manifestos,
Figure 3: The centre parties' support among farmers in
Norway and Sweden, 1956-89.
Table 2: Income from sales and state subsidy as part of net
income 1959-89 (percent and million Kr).
Second, context creates opportunities for parties to solve
their problems but can also represent barriers and reinforce
traditional policy profiles. While the political context for
transformation was favourable in the Swedish case, the EEC
issue in Norway has contributed to reinforcing the Centre
Party within the agricultural sector. We have focused on
factors that caused the Norwegian party, in particular, to
be unable to deal with its problem efficiently. The
Norwegian Centre Party has in this regard been trapped by
the heavy state subsidies in Norwegian agricultural policy
(some will, however, say that the party has been very
efficient). In Sweden, political support for the economic
interests of the farmers was less strong. The Centre Party
therefore provides an excellent example of how party policy
can be transformed by changes in government policy.
Environments are rarely similar across societies, and are
therefore important in cross-national studies of political
parties. The importance of studying public policy becomes
essential, especially in political parties originally formed
to help realize specific economic interests.