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Erna Solberg heads for four more years as Norwegian Prime Minister
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Erna Solberg heads for four more years as Norwegian Prime Minister

| Text and photo: Björn Lindahl

Erna Solberg carries on as Norway’s Prime Minister, but with a weaker parliamentary mandate. The Labour Party was the looser in Monday’s election. The Centre Party gained the most ground, carried forward by rural areas protesting against what they see as a threat to municipal independence.

The counting of votes after Norway’s parliamentary elections on 11 September turned into a cliff-hanger. Not least for the liberal Venstre, which during the evening was moving in and out of the four percent limit needed to secure leveling seats in Parliament (see factbox)

In the end, Venstre managed to scrape by with the help of 5,000 votes. Had the party fallen below the threshold, it would have been hard to see how the blue/blue government with the Conservatives and the Progress Party could have carried on. 

The Christian Democrats managed to climb above the threshold by a slightly clearer margin – the party secured 4.3 percent of the votes. But this was their worst election since 1945. Erna Solberg invited the Christian Democrats and Venstre to talks about how to shape politics for the next four years already on election night. Before such a meeting can take place, however, all the parties must be given time to analyse the results.

During the last parliamentary period the four parties had 96 out of the 169 seats in parliament. Now they only have 89. The government used to be able to rely on the support of only one of the supporting parties to get a majority for its policies, but now it needs the support of both. 

The Christian Democrats confused votes by saying they would not support a government which includes the Progress Party over the next four years. At the same time, the party has decided not to support a Labour-led government. Which begs the question: Is the party in opposition or not? The answer comes after talks with Erna Solberg.

The Labour Party also had a bad election, its second worst results since 1924. It was leaking voters both to the Centre Party, which nearly doubled its support, and to the Socialist Left. The two smaller parties the Reds and the Greens also took some of Labour’s votes. 

Photo: Björn Lindahl

Labour leader Jonas Gahr Støre was asked on election night whether he would survive such a loss. After the party started its election campaign ten weeks ago, it has lost 139,000 votes, the daily Dagens Næringsliv noted. Most analysts believe Labour did so badly because they presented a reality which voters did not recognise. Although Norway went through a tough time after oil prices were halved in 2014 and 50,000 petroleum sector jobs disappeared, the rest of the economy has fared well. Unemployment has remained around four percent as a result.

Meanwhile, Minister of Finance Siv Jensen from the Progress Party has kept a cool head. She has not given the oil sector tax cuts but let them look after themselves. It also looks like she has been successful in taking some air out of the property bubble which had been growing especially in Oslo. 

Those who claimed four years ago that the Progress Party would suffer as soon as they entered into government have been proven wrong. The party did best out of the parties on the right. Although it suffered a small loss of votes, 15.7 percent compared to 16.3 percent four years ago, it succeeded with being in government and remain populist at the same time. The Minister of Integration, Sylvi Listhaug, traveled to the Stockholm suburb og Rinkeby in order to scare Norwegian voters with “Swedish conditions” and took a lot of criticism for that. In her own county, Møre og Romsdal, the Progress Party secured 25 percent of the votes, however. 

The success of the Centre Party – nearly doubling its support from 5.5 percent in 2013 to 10.3 percent this year, is a reminder that rural areas are stronger in Norway than in any other Nordic country. Local politics was behind the party’s remarkable success in Andøya, north of Lofoten. The big parliamentary parties – both the Conservatives, the Progress Party and the Labour Party – all voted to close a military airport there. The Centre Party was against this and was rewarded with 72.1 percent of local votes, an improvement of 63.7 percentage points!

Fact box leveling seats

Leveling seats, commonly known also as adjustment seats, are an election mechanism employed for many years by all Scandinavian countries and Iceland in elections for their national legislatures. They are the seats of additional members elected to supplement the members directly elected by each constituency. The purpose of these additional seats is to ensure that each party's share of the total seats is roughly proportional to the parties' overall shares of votes at the national level.

Source: Wikipedia

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