Solberg makes history for Høyre

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Prime Minister Erna Solberg officially became the longest-serving prime minister ever for her Conservative Party (Høyre) over the weekend. She’s now held the office longer than Kåre Willoch did in the 1980s, after years of Labour Party domination.

Erna Solberg has now become  the longest-serving prime minister ever from the Conservative Party (Høyre). PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

As of Friday, Solberg had held Norway’s top political post for 1,668 days. “I really haven’t thought much about that,” Solberg claimed to newspaper Dagsavisen.

“It’s actually a bit sad,” Solberg mused, “not that I’ve been able to hold the post for as long as I have (she and her party were re-elected last fall) but that Kåre Willoch didn’t get to remain in the post even longer when there was a conservative majority in Parliament.”

Willoch took over as prime minister for the first time on October 14, 1981. A political battle over a proposed increase in gasoline taxes, however, prompted the more conservative Progress Party to join other opposition parties and topple Willoch’s government during its second term, on May 9, 1986.

Erna Solberg (far left) posed with Norway’s other former prime ministers on the occasion of Norway’s bicentennial in 2014. From right: Gro Harlem Brundtland and Jens Stoltenberg from the Labour Party, Kåre Willoch from the Conservatives and Kjell Magne Bondevik from the Christian Democrats. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

That left Willoch with a total period as prime minister of four years, six months and 25 days. Solberg, who leads a conservative government coalition that includes the Progress Party, can now claim a longer tenure.

She remains in charge of a minority government, though, since the non-socialist Christian Democrats opted against joining Solberg’s coalition that also has included the Liberal Party since January. It can be toppled at any time over a serious-enough issue, but the Christian Democrats want Solberg to remain as prime minister and are thus more likely to make concessions than Progress was under its former long-time leader Carl I Hagen. The Progress Party’s current leader, Siv Jensen, also serves as Finance Minister and clearly enjoys holding government power. She and Solberg, by most accounts, get along well and are keen to keep their coalition together.

Solberg notes that Willoch’s Conservative government continues to be remembered for its widespread deregulation of Norwegian society at the time. Stores were allowed to stay open later, for example, Norwegians suddenly had far more choices for everything from consumer goods to new restaurants opening up and new TV channels available as an alternative to state broadcaster NRK.

Solberg thinks her government will be remembered for its efforts to restructure Norway’s economy, to make it less reliant on oil and “greener,” and for government reforms at both the state and local level. Solberg broke the record for being leader of her party two years ago and aims to hang on to government power through the current parliamentary period that runs until 2021.

She has a long way to go, however, in breaking the record set by Einar Gerhardsen of the Labour Party, which ruled Norway for much of the post-war period. Gerhardsen was prime minister for 17 years and 21 days over four separate terms in office. Labour’s Gro Harlem Brundtland ranks next, with a total of 10 years one month and nine days as prime minister, followed by Labour’s Jens Stoltenberg, who served for nine years, seven months and two days over three terms.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund