Party leader reins in new ‘crown prince’

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The new “crown prince” of the Christian Democrats Party, Kjell Ingolf Ropstad, has been a firm opponent of abortion but now his boss, party leader Knut Arild Hareide, has come out against controversial new US funding bans against even providing abortion information. That means calls for Norwegian aid to offset cuts in US aid may be heard.

Kjell Ingolf, a 32-year-old man from Aust-Agder in southern Norway, is the new “crown prince” of the Christian Democrats party. That has raised some concerns. PHOTO: Wikipedia

Ropstad was nominated last week to be the Christian Democrats’ new deputy leader, edging out party veteran Dagrun Eriksen. Ropstad, age 32, hails from the conservative side of the Christian Democrats and Hareide himself said the election committee’s nomination “clearly” indicated that Ropstad has been singled out as a potential party leader to take over for himself.

“Kjell Ingolf has great capacity,” Hareide told news bureau NTB, but stressed that he had no plans to step down as party leader any time soon. There’s been some rumbling over how well the two will cooperate at the top levels of the party, which serves as a support party for the minority Conservatives-led government.

Ropstad himself didn’t seem surprised that his star was rising within the party: “I have had good feedback, but I am very grateful that they chose to nominate me.” His right-wing leanings can nonetheless pose challenges for Hareide, who hasn’t decided whether the small centrist party will continue to cooperate with a Conservative coalition government or switch sides and cooperate with a Labour-led government after the September election.

Ropstad said he sees himself as a centrist, and claimed the party’s election committee and board had “chosen a course … to cooperate with the Conservatives.” Others feel he’s very conservative, and commentator Hege Ulstein blasted him in newspaper Dagsavisen last week for being so anti-abortion that he recently seemed to side with US President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order, which halts US funding for organizations that even advise women about abortion options. Many fear that can lead to more illegal abortions and endanger women’s lives. “For us,” Ropstad told state broadcaster NRK, “this isn’t only about saving mothers’ lives, but the babies’ lives. We don’t want to contribute to organizations that work in countries where abortion is forbidden and try to push for it anyway.”

That enraged Ulstein, who wondered, then, where the Christian Democrats will stand if there are more major international campaigns for women’s health and rights to an abortion. There’s also rising calls in Norway to join the Netherlands in working to offset Trump’s funding cuts by boosting funding for abortion rights and information.

Knut Arild Hareide is still the boss of the Christian Democrats. PHOTO: Kristelig Folkeparti

This week, though, Hareide declared that he, at least opposed Trump’s cuts to organizations that offer information not only on abortion but also human sexuality, women’s health care and family planning. Hareide told newspaper Vårt Land that Trump’s policies “can lead to more deaths and more illegal abortions,” and that “we warn against” such policies.

His remarks came after he’d been challenged by the humanitarian organization Kirkens Nødhjelp (Norwegian Church Aid), which urged the Christian Democrats to fight such policies and work instead to ensure women’s rights to abortion. “At the same time,” Hareide hastened to add, “we have our views on abortion,” which are negative.

Ropstad will thus likely be expected to fall in line, and also work towards providing aid to programs that work for the fewest possible deaths among pregnant women, “good family planning and good, safe information,” according to the party’s leader.

Hareide, meanwhile, is also open to discussing proposals to create a third gender category in Norway for those who don’t want to be defined as either a man or a woman. The neutral category, called hen in Norwegian, was also proposed in the Labour Party’s platform that was unveiled earlier in the week.  The Liberal, Greens and Socialist Left parties have also voiced support for a neutral gender.

“This is a vulnerable group of people,” Hareide told NTB. “The Christian Democrats are clearly skeptical about hen, but we want to examine it. We want to know what the consequences would be before we draw any conclusions.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund