Government up for grabs

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As campaign season kicks into high gear in Norway, political analysts are busy calculating how the various parties are likely to share power and form a new government after the September 14 election. Victory is within reach for several, and at least seven government alternatives have emerged.

CAMPAIGNING, NORWEGIAN-STYLE: Political parties in Norway reach out to voters from stands set up in central areas, like these for the Labour Party (on the left) and the Progress Party, appropriately enough to the right of Labour's stand, in the heart of downtown Oslo. This is where voters can go to collect information on party platforms, listen to political appeals or take part in impromptu debates. PHOTO: Views and News

How voters vote will, of course, help determine how the government is formed. But with so many parties involved, Norwegian democracy means that even if the non-socialist parties win a majority, the socialist Labour Party may be able to form a government if the non-socialist parties don’t manage to come to terms on a common platform.

It means that even small parties like the non-socialist Liberals (Venstre) can prevent formation of a non-socialist government by refusing to cooperate with other non-socialist parties like the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) . That can anger non-socialist voters, and make it seem like the politicians are acting against the will of the people, but it all has to do with post-election tactics. Each political party will try to get the most out of whatever votes it gets.

With the Parliament looming in the background, Norway's political parties are campaigning hard during the run-up to the September 14 election. PHOTO: Views and News

The race remains wide open. Newspaper Aftenposten has laid out the four most likely government alternatives, plus three others that are less likely:1 -Labour (Arbeiderpartiet), the Socialist Left (SV) and the Center Party (Sp)continue their left-center coalition for another four years, if they collectively win a majority of the vote. That would likely mean that Labour’s Jens Stoltenberg would continue as prime minister, SV’s Kristin Halvorsen as Finance Minister and Sp’s Liv Signe Navarsete as Transportation Minister or in some other cabinet post. Labour’s Jonas Gahr Støre may continue as Foreign Minister, even though he’s likely to win a seat in Parliament.

2- Labour rules alone.That could happen if Labour, currently Norway’s largest party in public opinion polls, either does extremely well at the polls or if the non-socialist (borgerlig) parties win a majority or fail to form their own government. Some political analysts think this is a highly probable scenario.

3 – The Progress Party (Frp) and the Conservatives (Høyre)win a majority, or the non-socialist parties as a whole do, and come to terms on a government platform. Even though Frp Leader Siv Jensen and Høyre’s leader Erna Solberg appear to agree on several issues, there remain many potential power struggles between them. Frp is much larger than Høyre, but Solberg is expected to demand the prime minister’s job, for example, which Jensen clearly believes would belong to her. It’s also unclear whether they’d get support from the other non-socialist parties like the Liberals (Venstre) or the Christian Democrats. Those two parties may actually throw their support behind socialist parties instead, mostly because they think an Frp-Høyre government would be too conservative for their liking.

4 – The Conservatives, the Christian Democrats and the Liberalsmanage to form a more center-leaning non-socialist government like the one that ruled from 2001 to 2005. This could only happen if Labour loses badly at the polls and these three parties pick up Labour votes. Right now, public opinion polls suggest these three parties combined only command around 25 percent of the vote.

5 – The Progress Party rules alone.This party, Norway’s most conservative, currently ranks as the country’s second-largest but probably still couldn’t get enough seats in Parliament to give it any real power on its own. Its chances of forming a minority government are seen as lower than Labour’s chances of ruling alone.

6 – The Conservatives rule alone.Not probable because the party has performed poorly in recent public opinion polls, with less than 15 percent of the vote.

7 – The Christian Democrats, the Liberals and the Center Partyform a centrist non-socialist government. Not probable, because they also have performed poorly in public opinion polls and seem unlikely to get enough votes to warrant even a minority government. Together they have less than 20 percent of the vote.

Campaigning continues in full swing, as each party tries to attract votes. A few additional parties also have a presence in the campaign, like the left-wing Reds (Rødt) and the Pensionists’ Party, but they may not win enough votes to win representation in the Parliament.