Thursday, 17 September 2009
Who will succeed Jagland as Speaker of Parliament?
Following Monday’s general election speculations are already rife about what changes the coming reshuffle will bring to the government. But it should not be forgotten that there are also several posts in Parliament which must be filled, including leaders of the standing committees and leaders of party groups of the Labour Party, the Socialist Left Party and the Centre Party (the Centre Party was first out when they yesterday chose Trygve M. Slagsvold Vedum, deputy leader of the party).
The positions of Speaker and Vice-Speakers of Parliament must also be filled. The new Parliament will convene on 1 October and be officially opened by the King on 9 October. The day before the State Opening the new Presidium will be elected. The current Speaker, Thorbjørn Jagland (second photo), declined to be renominated in order to be a candidate for the position of Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, and the five other members of the Presidium were also not candidates for re-election to Parliament.
The position as Speaker of Parliament is the second highest rank in Norway, junior only to the King and senior to the Prime Minister. The position has traditionally been seen as mostly representative, but Jagland has chosen a more active role during the last four years.
Traditionally the Speaker has mostly come from the largest party in Parliament, which since 1927 has been the Labour Party. With the government having won a renewed majority, it will almost certainly again be a Labour MP who will take the Speaker’s chair this autumn. In my view there are two Labour MPs who are likely candidates – Marit Nybakk and Svein Roald Hansen.
Marit Nybakk (first photo) is one of the longest-serving MPs, having taken her seat for the county of Oslo in 1986. She has earlier been leader of the Standing Committee on Defence, but in the past four years has been only second deputy leader of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs. Her long service and the fact that she has never received a government post might be reasons to reward this hard-working MP with the speakership. It could also be time for a second female Speaker. Alternatively, Nybakk may wish to become leader of the Foreign Committee, a position which is now available as the current leader, Olav Akselsen, left Parliament at the election.
Svein Roald Hansen has been an MP for the county of Østfold since 2001. During the last four-year term Hansen was a member of the Standing Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs and he may be seen as a less controversial choice than Nybakk. Both Nybakk and Hansen have often filled in as acting speakers in the absence of the actual Speaker.
Alternatively a minister from the present government could resign from the cabinet to become Speaker of Parliament, but this seems less likely. The speakership is often considered a sinecure for politicians approaching the end of their careers and none of the current ministers who have seats in Parliament seem to consider themselves on the way out of politics in the near future. Dag Terje Andersen, the Minister of Labour and Social Inclusion, is expected to leave the government at the reshuffle and has been tipped for a position in Parliament – leader of Labour’s parliamentary group or leader of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs have been suggested, but the speakership may also be a possibility.
Meanwhile, Ola Borten Moe, an MP from the Centre Party, recently suggested that the next Speaker of Parliament should be selected from one of the three parties in the political centre, i.e. his own party, the Liberal Party or the Christian Democrat Party, but this seems quite unlikely, particularly after the election weakened the centre significantly, leaving it with only 23 seats altogether.
The introduction of a unicameral system on 1 October means that Parliament’s new presidium will be made up in a different way than earlier. For 195 years there has been a speaker and a vice-speaker of Parliament as well as of the two divisions the Lagting and the Odelsting. The Presidium will continue to have six members – one speaker and five vice-speakers. Whereas the Speaker and the Vice-Speaker have until now presided every second month, the Speaker will in the future preside permanently, to be replaced by one of the five vice-speakers when he/she is unable to attend.
Given Monday’s election results, the Labour Party will get two seats in the Presidium, while the first Vice-Speaker will come from the Progress Party (the biggest opposition party) and the second from the Conservative Party (most likely Per-Kristian Foss). The Socialist Left Party and the marginally smaller Centre Party will get one seat each in the Presidium. My guess would be Per Olaf Lundteigen from the Centre Party, while the Socialist Left Party’s candidate is more open, as most of that party’s “veterans” left Parliament at the election.