Prime Minister Erna Solberg is reportedly gearing up for another pre-Christmas shake-up of the cabinet ministers in her government. Several Norwegian media outlets were reporting Sunday night that Oil Minister Tord Lien is on his way out, as is Justice Minister Anders Anundsen.
Both are members of the Progress Party and Anundsen is said to be resigning for personal reasons and at his own request. He told the party’s nomination committee earlier this year that he also did not want to be re-elected for a seat in Parliament following next autumn’s election.
At the time he refused to answer questions about whether he would continue as a member of the government if Solberg’s Conservatives-led government coalition wins re-election. Now Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) and newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) were reporting that he is indeed leaving and is likely to be replaced by the Progress Party’s Per-Willy Amundsen, currently a state secretary in the ministry that deals with local government and administrative issues. Amundsen, who was first elected to Parliament in 2005, represents Troms in Northern Norway and has been skeptical both towards immigration and climate change.
Solberg is also expected to announce Tuesday that Oil Minister Tord Lien will be leaving the government, also reportedly at his own request. He ran trouble earlier this year, though, when he moved forward with allowing oil companies to nominate exploration fields in disputed areas off the coasts of Møre and Lofoten. Lien, who’s bullish on the oil industry and determined to expand exploration and production in the Arctic, extended the new powers to oil company in violation of the cooperation agreement that the government parties (Progress and the Conservatives) have with the Liberal Party and the Christian Democrats.
Lien is expected to be replaced by Terje Søviknes, one of the Progress Party’s most high-profile mayors in Os in the western county of Hordaland. Søviknes has long been destined to take on national roles in the party and become a minister, but he has been stained by an incident back in 2001, when he admitted to having had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old party member at a national meeting of the the party’s youth group. He was forced to resign all party roles in national politics for the Progress Party, but apologized publicly and has been working to restore his reputation ever since.
“Søviknes has had many important jobs internally in the party,” said NRK’s political commentator Magnus Takvam. “He seems to have broad support.”
The ministerial changes are due to be announced after a Council of State meeting on Tuesday. It’s only the second cabinet shakeup since Solberg took over as head of the Norwegian government in 2013, and follows last December’s changes that ushered in new ministers of culture, climate and the environment, agriculture and labour. The Progress Party’s Sylvi Listhaug was also named as new Immigration Minister and Per Sandberg took over as fisheries minister, replacing Elisabeth Vik Aspaker, who became minister in charge of EU issues.
Solberg’s government otherwise has been relatively stable. Since both Anundsen and Lien reportedly wanted to leave the government, it’s believed the changes are being made now so that the new ministers will have some experience in their jobs before next year’s election campaign officially gets underway.