Voters stream to the polls

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It’s Election Day in Norway, with eligible voters in Norway taking part in what’s been branded as the most exciting race in modern Norwegian history. Lines formed immediately when some polling places opened for early voting on Sunday afternoon, but an estimated 300,000 voters remained undecided even at the very last minute.

Lines were long at Uranienborg School in Oslo, where incumbent Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Labour waited with his wife, diplomat Ingrid Schulerud, (photo at right) to cast their ballots.

The latest public opinion polls still showed a dead heat between parties on both the left and the right. The government remained up for grabs, and analysts agreed that with margins so narrow, the undecided voters will in fact decide the results.

The results themselves, however, may set off more uncertainty. No single party is expected to win enough support to rule alone, meaning that party leaders likely will end up having to negotiate with one another to form a ruling coalition.

That in itself will be a challenge. If the socialist parties win a majority, the existing “red-green” coalition led by Labour will continue in government, but if the non-socialist parties win, the result remains a mystery. That’s because the various non-socialist parties disagree among themselves and may not be able to form a government. That could leave Labour, or the Labour-led red-green coalition, ruling in a minority position.

Party leaders, meanwhile, ended their campaigns in a variety of ways. Frontrunners Stoltenberg and Siv Jensen of the Progress Party continued their “Jens vs Jensen” duels in one last debate on Sunday.Their tone remained sharp, with Jensen even cautioning her opponent’s father, former Foreign Minister and veteran Labour politician Thorvald Stoltenberg, against his own son’s policies on elder care. Jensen made another pitch for using more oil revenues to build more nursing homes now, before prices rise and demand becomes acute in just a few years. The Stoltenbergs responded that they were confident Jens’ father would receive good care with current policies.

Incumbent Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen of the Socialist Left spent her last campaign day in Lofoten, where she’s been the most active politician against oil drilling off the scenic coastal area.

Conservatives’ leader Erna Solberg spent most of her day flying around southeastern Norway in a helicopter, touching down at a variety of locations to spread her word.

Polls would be open until 9pm Monday, with the first results expected shortly after that. It was expected to be a long night, though, if the voting remained close as predicted.

Cast your own vote!