Government loses its last supporter

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Norway’s minority government lost the last of its two support parties on Wednesday, when the Christian Democrats followed the Liberals’ lead and pulled out of negotiations over the state budget for next year. Christian Democrats leader Knut Arild Hareide blamed the government’s ultimatum over limited fuel tax hikes, which he claimed would leave car owners winning at the expense of the climate.

Christian Democrats' leader Knut Arild Hareide, speaking at his party's national board meeting on Saturday. PHOTO: Kristelig Folkeparti

Christian Democrats’ leader Knut Arild Hareide, shown here speaking at his party’s national board meeting, was the latest to withdraw from state budget negotiations with the government, leaving the government teetering on the verge of collapse. PHOTO: Kristelig Folkeparti

“We have always been constructive,” Hareide claimed after the meeting with his party faithful at the Parliament. He went on to suggest it was destructive for the government led by Prime Minister Erna Solberg of the Conservatives and Finance Minister Siv Jensen of the Progress Party to insist that their proposed changes in a package of vehicle taxes were non-negotiable.

“We would never have presented such an ultimatum,” Hareide told reporters right after his party’s emergency meeting ended with a unanimous vote that the Christian Democrats could no longer go forward with budget negotiations.

“Now it’s up to the government,” Hareide declared, to come up with a new budget initiative. He stressed that “it’s their responsibility” to present a state budget that must win support in Parliament by Monday. “They need to think things over one more time.”

No criticism of Solberg
Hareide acknowledged that climate measures in the budget had led to “demanding” negotiations over the past several weeks. Other measures offered in exchange for the government’s minimal fuel tax hikes were not enough to satisfy either his party’s or the Liberals’ goals for reducing carbon emissions.

He did claim that he believes Solberg herself has been “very constructive” and that he had “no reason to criticize Erna.” He placed the most responsibility for the budget crisis on the Progress Party: “I can just imagine what (the Progress Party’s former leader) Carl I Hagen’s reaction would have been if the Christian Democrats, in a minority government, had come forth with an ultimatum.”

It all leaves current government on the verge of collapse. At this point three main options remain:

(1) Solberg and Jensen could still come up with a new offer that the Christian Democrats can’t refuse prompting them to offer the support needed for a majority in Parliament

(2) The Conservatives’ and Progress Party’s minority coalition dissolves, leaving Labour to take over or Solberg continuing as prime minister alone. It will be extremely difficult for the Progress Party to waiver from its firm position against raising taxes, and it may opt to leave the government.

(3) The current government continues as a minority coalition, forced to seek issue-by-issue support until its term ends in September.

“Our door is open 24 hours a day,” Hareide said, by way of encouraging the government to make a new offer. His deputy leader of the Christian Democrats, Hans Olav Syversen, drew laughs when he stated that “we’ll even be open on Sunday.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund