Several long-time leaders leave Parliament and politics behind
June 22, 2009
Norway’s Parliament has adjourned for the summer and this year, several veteran politicians have taken their leave permanently. Some of them have shaped the face of Norwegian politics for decades, and even their opponents say they’ll be missed.
Among them are such big names locally as Carl I Hagen of the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) , Thorbjørn Jagland and Hill-Marta Solberg of the Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet) , and Øystein Djupedal of the Socialist Left (SV).
Few have shaken up Norway’s social welfare state as much as Hagen, who long advocated lower taxes and less government interference with daily life. His conservative Progress Party, known as the most right-wing party in Norway, was once a lone voice in the wilderness and barely had representation in Parliament (Stortinget) . Today the party ranks as the nation’s next-larget, second only to the long-dominant Labour Party in size.
Hagen is retiring after decades of stirring up controversy and provocation. He leaves the party in the hands of Siv Jensen,who’s keen on becoming Norway’s next prime minister,and likely will spend more time at his holiday home in Spain. But he’s already signalled he’ll be active in the fall campaign leading up to the September elections, which will decide the make-up of Parliament for the next four years.Hagen most recently has been vice-president of the Parliament, while the president of the Parliament,Thorbjørn Jagland, is leaving as well, although not officially until the fall. Jagland has spent most of his adult life in politics but, at age 58, isn’t ready to retire yet. He’s already been named head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee and has been in the running to take over as head of the Council of Europe. Tuesday’s scheduled election of a new secretary general was, however, postponed until the autumn. Jagland was favoured over his Polish opponent, but some council members pushed through a proposal Monday to gather more candidates for the post. Jagland insisted he wasn’t disappointed, and still feels confident he’ll win the post later this year.
It’s certainly not the first time Jagland has faced a setback. The career politician rose to be head of the Labour Party in the mid-1990s after years as a Member of Parliament and cabinet minister, including foreign minister. He succeeded Gro Harlem Brundtland as prime minister but created ill will within his own party when he dumped the popular Åse Kleveland as Minister of Culture, appointed other ministers who only lasted a matter of months for various reasons and demanded that Labour win 36.9 of the vote in the 1997 election in order to retain government power. It didn’t and Jagland’s government was forced to resign.
He told various Norwegian media in a blitz of farewell interviews this week that he has few regrets. He has said he didn’t care for all the “internal battles” within the Labour Party, and sees himself as a “transitional” figure between the era of Gro Harlem Brundtland and current Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
Several of the other long-time politicians leaving the national scene have been offered new public-sector posts.Jan Petersen, another former foreign minister, will become Norway’s new ambassador in Vienna.Øystein Djupedalof the Socialist Left is taking the usual route of accepting a county administrator’s post in southern Norway.Hill-Marta Solbergwill become chairman of the state wine and liquor monopoly, Vinmonopolet.
Other former cabinet ministers retiring or moving on includeÅslaug Hagaof the Center Party,Odd Einar Dørumof Venstre,Karita Bekkemellemof Labour andInge Lønningof the Conservatives.