Lysbakken looms as new SV leader

Audun Lysbakken has won an internal power struggle within the Socialist Left party (SV) and now seems assured of being elected as SV’s new leader at the party’s national meeting next month.

Audun Lysbakken, shown here with Kristin Halvorsen, is keen to take over as head of the Socialist Left party (SV) next month. PHOTO: Sosialistiske Venstrepartiet SV

Lysbakken, age 34, will succeed Kristin Halvorsen, who announced on election night last fall that she intended to step down after nearly 15 years at the helm. Halvorsen said the party, which is part of the current government coalition but has experienced a dramatic fall in voter support, needed renewal and new enthusiasm.

She tried to keep out of the immediate power struggle that began among her possible successors, refraining from saying who she’d support. Three young men, all from western Norway, quickly announced their candidacy, including Lysbakken, former government minister for SV Bård Solhjell and Heikki Holmås, a Member of Parliament for SV. Solhjell dropped out early and the leadership campaign continued between Holmås and Lysbakken, until this week.

Holmås announced Tuesday night he was bowing out after recognizing that Lysbakken had support from around 60 percent of party delegates while he had around 40 percent. “There were many who supported me and I’m incredibly proud of that,” Holmås told newspaper Dagsavisen. “When I told Audun I was going to pull out, he gave a sigh of relief. Now he can devote full attention to how we’re going to boost raise SV up. Together we’ll work so that SV can get more support.”

Lysbakken, a young father who took off on his allotted “papa leave” last year, is currently government minister in charge of family and equality issues. He’s a major backer of the social welfare state and equal rights issues and signaled a tougher stance in the political debate, not least within the government coalition.

“Tough, but constructive,” he told Dagsavisen. “I have a very good relation to the two other parties in the government cooperation (Labour and the Center Party) and am a big supporter of it.” Some SV members have called for the party to withdraw from the government, arguing that the party has had to make too many compromises on important issues for the sake of government unity, and that they’d have more voter support in opposition than they do now in position.

Halvorsen and now Lysbakken seem to think otherwise. Halvorsen, who has indicated she’d like to continue in her current role as a government minister (education), said Lysbakken “has experience, is a good minister and has represented SV very well.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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