Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Norway veers to the right

Yesterday Norway went to the polls and the results of the general election show that the country took a huge step to the right. Having lost his majority, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, leader of the centre-left coalition which has governed for eight years, has informed the King that he will step down, paving the way for a new government, which will most likely be a coalition of the Conservative Party and the far right wing Progress Party, possibly also with one or both of the centre-right parties.
With 99.9 % of the votes counted the results are as follows:

The Labour Party, 30.8 % (-4.6), 55 seats (-9)
The Conservative Party, 26.9 % (+9.6), 48 seats (+18)
The Progress Party, 16.3 % (-6.7), 29 seats (-12)
The Christian People's Party, 5.6 % (no change), 10 seats (no change)
The Centre Party, 5.4 % (-0.8), 10 seats (-1)
The Liberal Party, 5.3 % (+1.4), 9 seats (+7)
The Socialist Left Party, 4.1 % (-2.1), 7 seats (-4)
The Green Party, 2.8 % (+2.5), 1 seat (+1)
The Red Party, 1.1 % (-0.2), no seats (no change).

This means that the governing coalition of Labour, the Socialist Left and the Centre Party have 72 seats out of 169, falling well short of the 85 needed for a majority, while the four parties to the right have 96. The Green Party, which enters Parliament for the first time, does not (yet) belong to either block.
As a consequence of this, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (Labour) announced last night that he will submit his resignation to the King after the new Parliament has been opened on 9 October and the fiscal budget presented five days later. The new Prime Minister will most likely be the leader of the Conservative Party, Erna Solberg. She has throughout the election campaign and beyond been rather unwilling to go into detail about what sort of coalition she envisages, only stating that she would prefer all four of the parties to the right to join the government, which seems unlikely as the centre-right Christian People's Party and the Liberal Party are very reluctant to sit in the same cabinet as the far-right Progress Party. Thus the most likely scenario seems to be a coalition of the Conservatives and the Progress Party, which will be dependent on either the Christian People's Party or the Liberal Party to reach a parliamentary majority. If so, Erna Solberg will be one of the first Conservative leaders in Europe to allow a right wing populist party into the government offices.
Given that she succeeds in forming a government, Erna Solberg will be the second female Prime Minister of Norway after Gro Harlem Brundtland (Labour), who was Prime Minister in 1981, 1986-1989 and 1990-1996.


  1. I understand that you are no great fan of Erna Solberg, but as an American, I cannot help feeling a touch envious that your country is soon to have its second female head of government (and, within this century, a female head of state). :)

    1. I did not vote for Erna Solberg's party, but I have not much in particular against her as a person, although I find her refusal to answer crucial questions about her policy and her plans for the government verging on the dishonest. The big problem is the far right wing populists of the Progress Party, whose leader, Siv Jensen, is wholly unsuitable for government, which, if further proof was needed, I think she showed with her very undignified and embarrassing behaviour on election night. While Erna Solberg made a dignified speech, where she also had the grace to thank the outgoing PM for his service and for having been a unifying figure for the whole country in the dark summer days of 2011, Siv Jensen pranced around the stage and started her speech by bellowing: "This I have looked forward to saying for a looong time: GOOOODBYYYYEEEE, JEEEEENS!!!!!!!!" The rest of her speech is best forgotten.

      As for Erna Solberg's gender this has barely been mentioned in Norway, which I find quite interesting. I think female politicians of all parties have a lot to thank Gro Harlem Brundtland for, who through ten years proved herself such a capable Prime Minister that gender really ceased being an issue because people got so used to the Prime Minister being a woman. Of the seven parties in the present, outgoing Parliament four have female leaders (down from five until last year). I did note a certain difference between Norway and Denmark when Denmark got its first female PM two years ago and you could read comments by serious journalists (also those friendly disposed to her) that "Well, now we have to get used to that the Prime Minister can be a blond woman" and some rather infatuated comments about how she "glides past on her high heels". Gro Harlem Brundtland's long and competent tenure somehow seems to mean that we got over this twenty or thirty years ago.

    2. Thank you, those are quite interesting observations.

      It is heartening to hear that the tenure of a female prime minister was able to dispel the silliness you recount regarding Denmark (and which struck me as reminiscent of Sarah Palin's turn on the American national stage, during which even many of her supporters sexually objectified her in a rather disgusting manner).


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