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26th Feb 2024

Norway: Oil war puts end to Støre's dream of safe rule

  • Labor leader Jonas Gahr Støre will have to form a minority government (Photo: Arbeiderpartiet)
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Labor leader Jonas Gahr Støre will have to form a minority government with Senterpartiet (Center Party) in Norway, after SV (the Socialist Left) left negotiations.

An election in mid-September gave Støre's Arbeiderpartiet (Socialdemocrats), Senterpartiet, and SV a majority.

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But the coalition that ruled Norway for eight years when Jens Stoltenberg was prime minister, could not agree on a platform.

SV left the room because they felt the other two parties were not ambitious enough in two areas.

SV wanted to stop explorations for new oilfields and increase taxes for those in the highest income brackets.

A majority government involving the three parties had been Mr. Støre's preferred choice, but Senterpartiet and its leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum had always argued for leaving SV out of the coalition.

And with SV having left the room, political commentators in Norway unanimously scored this round as a win for Senterpartiet.

The questions that now remain are: how much this has hurt Støre's standing as a leader of the coalition? And whether Arbeiderpartiet, which has 48 seats in parliament to Senterpartiet's 28, is really running the show?

Climate and oil - big issues

During the election campaign, climate change and the future of the oil and gas industry became a hot topic. The trade unions, which are close to Arbeiderpartiet, did not want to stop exploration. Senterpartiet held the same position.

But large groups of younger voters, such as those who make up Arbeiderpartiet's youth organisation AUF, wanted to phase out the oil industry. Climate is an issue where having SV in the coalition would have made it easier to balance the various demands from voters.

The parties who called for the most radical climate policy did not have tremendous success in the election.

MDG (the Green Party) surprisingly failed to break the 4-percent threshold, which would have more than doubled their standing in parliament.

SV did better than four years ago, but not as well as polls suggested before the election.

Venstre (Liberals), the climate-friendly party on the right, did slightly better than in 2017 - 0.2 percent better to be exact.

But these results did not mean that climate was not a top issue for voters. Almost all political parties claimed climate change was one of their top priorities.

Now they must deliver - and that will be a challenge for Støre.

Looking for a majority

Senterpartiet and Arbeiderpartiet government will be nine seats short of a majority in parliament.

When SV left, Støre underlined that the two remaining parties will keep SV as their preferred partner during budget negotiations.

Contrary to the situation under former prime minister Erna Solberg, whose first coalition government in 2013 had the support of Venstre and KrF (a Christian party), there will not be a political agreement between a Støre government and their preferred negotiating partner.

SV says it will be an opposition party and try to push the government to the left.

On the other hand, Senterpartiet might also look at negotiating with other parties in the centre, such as Venstre and KrF, when it is convenient. But this will be difficult politically, because these two parties have either supported or been part of Solberg's coalition for the past eight years.

Støre's goal is that a new government can take office on 15 October.

Author bio

Alf Ole Ask is EU correspondent for Energi og Klima, and a former Brussels and New York correspondent for Dagens Næringsliv and Aftenposten.

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