Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Election victory for Norway’s government

The results from Norway’s general election on Monday show victory for the three parties of the government – they won 86 out of 169 seats in parliament, leaving 83 seats to the opposition. It is the first time since 1993 that a government is not defeated in a general election in this country. All in all, the three parties went back only 0.2 %, which is quite unique in a European government context these days.
It was the biggest party, the Labour Party, which carried the day for the government. Its share of the votes rose by 2.7 % to 35.4 %, giving them 64 seats in Parliament, which is up 3 from the 2005 election. The Socialist Left Party did not do very well this time, and went down (2.6 %) almost exactly as much as the Labour Party went up, ending with 6.2 % of the votes and 11 seats in parliament (down 4). This means that the Socialist Left Party is now exactly the same size as the Centre Party, the third government party, which also won 6.2 % (down 0.3 %) and retained its 11 seats in Parliament. This means that the three parties will now agree on a new government platform and that the ministries will probably be redistributed between the three parties in an upcoming cabinet reshuffle. During the past four years the Socialist Left Party, being bigger, has had one minister more than the Centre Party, but now that they are exactly the same size, this will almost certainly change, unless the Centre Party is compensated by getting a “heavier” ministry.
On the right wing the Progress Party remained the biggest opposition party and with 22.9 % got its best result ever. Yet this was up only 0.9 % from the 2005 election, which was far from the results opinion polls until recently had suggested might be possible. Anyway, this gives the Progress Party 41 seats in Parliament, but their dream of taking part in a government was crushed for another four years.
The Conservative Party celebrated as if they had won the election and was indeed the party which gained most votes – up by 3.1 % to 17.2 % and 30 MPs (up by 7). Yet this is only a “victory” because their result four years ago was the worst in the history of a party which was over 20 % in 2001 and over 30 % in the 1980s.
In general the election results show that the three larger parties, which each had a candidate for the premiership, did quite well, while the small parties were squeezed. The Christian Democrats did their worst election ever, going down by 1.2 % to 5.5 %, which means that they lose 1 MP and get 10 seats in Parliament. This was the party which had the Prime Minister 1997-2000 and 2001-2005.
The heaviest defeat was accorded to the Liberal Party, the country’s oldest party. They received only 3.9 % of the votes, which is down 2 % from 2005 and which means that they lose 8 of their 10 seats in Parliament. The party leader, Lars Sponheim, himself lost his seat in Parliament. Flabbergasted by this unforeseen outcome he immediately announced his resignation as leader of the party, later pointing to Trine Skei Grande, one of the party’s deputy leader and now one of its two MPs, as his preferred successor.
The collapse of the Liberal Party and the defeat of the high-profile, colourful Sponheim was perhaps the greatest surprise of the election night. Sponheim had played a risky game during the campaign, issuing guarantees that his party would not take part in a government with the Progress Party, would not vote for a fiscal budget from a government which the Progress Party was part of, would not support a government which allowed petroleum activity in Lofoten and Vesterålen, would prefer a Labour government to a government in which the Progress Party participated, but would not support a Labour government if they continued in a coalition with the Socialist Left Party. All these negative, unconstructive guarantees were probably the main reason for his downfall – the exit polls show that thousands of former Liberal voters deserted to the Conservative Party, obviously realising that a vote for the Conservatives would be the safest way to get a non-socialist government. Sponheim played a high game and he lost it.
This leaves the right wing in an even greater chaos than before. But for the country the outcome is in my opinion a good one. The current government has done a good job over the last four years and will not get four more years to carry on their work.
The photo above shows the leaders of the Labour Party and the Socialist Left Party, Jens Stoltenberg and Kristin Halvorsen, on an earlier occasion. The speculations on what changes will occur in the cabinet are already rife, some suggesting that Kristin Halvorsen will leave the Ministry of Finance, from where it is obviously hard to profile the party she leads, and become Minister of Education instead.
Jens Stoltenberg was received by the King this morning, but, contrary to what some journalists write, the King was not going to ask him to form his third government. With this election result Stoltenberg’s second government will simply continue in office and the King will not have to act in any way.

The full election results can be found here:

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