Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Major government reshuffle in Norway

A major government reshuffle took place in an extraordinary State Council held at the Royal Palace in Oslo at 11 a.m. today. The changes will take effect from 3 p.m. today.
The reshuffle had been expected since the government’s election victory in September. The Labour Party strengthened its position in the election and has obviously taken advantage of this to dominate the government to an even greater extent than before - Labour (Ap) now has 12 out of 20 ministers and the party controls the three most important positions - Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Minister of Foreign Affairs - as well as several other heavy ministries. The Socialist Left Party (SV) was reduced in size by the government and is therefore down from five to four minister. The Centre Party (Sp) keeps its four ministries. There are now 10 women and 10 men in the government.
The leader of the Labour Party, Jens Stoltenberg, naturally remains in his position as Prime Minister, while the two other party leaders are moved. The leader of the Centre Party, Liv Signe Navarsete, has until now been Minister of Transport and Communications, but now becomes Minister of Local Government and Regional Development. Magnhild Meltveit Kleppa, who held that position until today, succeeds Navarsete at the Ministry of Transport and Communications. Kristin Halvorsen, leader of the Socialist Left Party, leaves the Ministry of Finance to become Minister of Education, while the current Minister of Education, Bård Vegar Solhjell, leaves the government to take up his seat in Parliament and become his party’s parliamentary leader. Tora Aasland (also SV) continues as Minister of Research and Higher Education in the Ministry of Education.
The new Finance Minister will be Sigbjørn Johnsen (Ap). He held the same position from 1990 to 1996 and is one of several veterans returning to the government. Another returning veteran is Grete Faremo (Ap), who held several cabinet positions in the government of Gro Harlem Brundtland, but was more or less fired by Thorbjørn Jagland following a scandal in 1996. Faremo will now be Minister of Defence. The current Minister of Defence, Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen (Ap), takes over the Ministry of Health and Care Services from Bjarne Håkon Hanssen (Ap), who had already made it known that he wanted to leave politics. A third veteran is Karl-Eirik Schjøtt Pedersen (Ap), a former Minister of Finance who has until now been the Prime Minister’s chief of staff. He is promoted to the rank of a Minister without portfolio at the Office of the Prime Minister.
With Bård Vegar Solhjell returning to Parliament, the Socialist Left Party’s current parliamentary leader, Audun Lysbakken, enters the government to become Minister of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion. Anniken Huitfeldt (Ap) leaves her position as Minister of Children and Equality to become Minister of Culture. The current Minister of Culture and Church Affairs, Trond Giske (Ap), becomes Minister of Trade and Industry. Church affairs are moved to the current Ministry of Government Administration and Reform, which will be renamed the Ministry of Reform and Church Affairs and be lead by Rigmor Aaserud (Ap), who was elected to Parliament for the first time this autumn and will also be Minister of Nordic cooperation. Until 21 December Aaserud will also be in charge of the Ministry of Labour, a ministry left vacant a few weeks ago when Dag Terje Andersen (Ap) resigned to become Speaker of Parliament. The social inclusion issues will be moved from that ministry to the new Ministry of Children and Social Inclusion, while immigration issues are moved to the Ministry of Justice and Police, where Knut Storberget (Ap) continues.
Other new ministers are Lisbeth Berg-Hansen (Ap), who becomes Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs in succession to Helga Pedersen, who recently renounced that position to become leader of Labour’s parliamentary group, and Hanne Bjurstrøm (Ap). The latter is currently Norway’s chief negotiator on international climate issues and she is appointed a minister with the task of assisting Minister of Environment and International Development Erik Solheim (SV), who stays on as that, in the two months leading up to the Copenhagen summit in December. After that she will become Minister of Labour.
Jonas Gahr Støre (Ap) continues as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Terje Riis-Johansen (Sp) goes on as Minister of Petroleum and Energy and Lars Peder Brekk (Sp) remains in his position as Minister of Agriculture and Food. Sylvia Brustad (Ap), Minister of Trade and Industry, and Heidi Grande Røys (SV), Minister of Government Administration and Reform, leave the government.
Interestingly the official government list seems to implicate that the ministers will now again be ranked according to their seniority as ministers, as was the tradition before 2005, rather than according to their age, as has been the case for the last four years. The three party leaders and the Minister of Foreign Affairs will however continue to rank before the other ministers.

Press release (in English):

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