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10th Dec 2022

Feature

Meet the possible next prime minister of Norway?

  • Next Monday, up to 3.8 million Norwegians will vote in the general election. The man who probably will form a new centre-left government is Jonas Gahr Støre, leader of the social democratic party, Arbeiderpart (Photo: Arbeiderpartiet)
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The most-recent UN climate panel report on global warming has also heated up the election campaign in Norway - and boosted the far-left and green parties.

Next Monday (13 September) 3.8 million Norwegians will get the chance to make their voices heard in the general election. Prime minister Erna Solberg is running for a third term, but it is unlikely that her coalition government will succeed. However, she is not giving up, as she told EUobserver this summer.

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The man who probably will form a new centre-left government is Jonas Gahr Støre, leader of the social democratic party, Arbeiderpartiet (AP).

The 61-year-old is one of the richest politicians in Norway, with a fortune he inherited from his grandfather, an industrialist. Støre was educated at Science Po in Paris and speaks fluent French.

He started as an advisor for prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, became foreign minister in 2005 and took over as head of the party when his close friend Jens Stoltenberg left Norwegian politics for NATO in 2014.

His wealth and elite university education made him an uncommon choice to lead the party and after losing the 2017 election, this will likely be Støre's last chance to become prime minister.

Need support from far-left?

From 2005 to 2013, Stoltenberg led a centre-left government with the socialist left party (SV), the old farmer's party Senterpartiet (Sp) and Arbeiderpartiet.

Støre's wish is to rebuild that coalition to form a majority government. However, the latest polls show that the three parties could fall just short of a majority and would need support from the former Maoist party (Rødt) or the Green Party (MDG).

The latter is the only political party in Norway demanding a full stop to new oil and gas field exploration.

Rødt wants to increase taxes more than any party in the history of Norway, and scrap the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement that connects the country to EUs internal market.

Opposition to the EEA agreement is also shared by SV and SP - but not by the majority of Norwegians, or members of parliament. AP is a strong supporter of the EEA-agreement. Støre himself had an important role during the negotiations in the 1990s.

For a centre-left government, the relationship with the EU will be a difficult issue.

IPPC changed the debate

Since the publication of the UN climate report (IPPC) in August, climate change has been a top issue in the oil-rich Nordic country.

The left and the green parties have seen their poll numbers climb, and both Rødt and MDG look poised to reach the four-percentage threshold for the first time. This is the entry-level for representation in the Norwegian parliament, the Stortinget.

However, the election could give Norway a parliament with no clear majority, and several stronger smaller parties that would then have a bigger impact than ever before on the country's future.

For smaller parties in Norway, reaching the threshold could mean the difference between a single representative in the national assembly or a delegation nearing double-digits. The liberals, Venstre, and the Christian party, Kristelig Folkeparti, are two smaller parties on the right who are part of the current government coalition.

Venstre, which brands itself as the climate-friendly party of the right, and supports a more gradual end to the search for new oil fields, got a boost from the climate report and might be safe. KrF, on the other hand, is still under four-percent in most polls.

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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