Four more years with Jens

Bookmark and Share

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg won a decisive victory for his Labour Party in Norway’s parliamentary election, but has only a slim majority for the left-center coalition he’ll continue to head. The parties with the strongest prime minister candidates won the most votes, and Jens was the most popular of all.

Stoltenberg waited until well after midnight to return to his party’s Election Night gathering, apparently fearing that with the vote so close, his coalition might lose ground to the non-socialist parties.

There was no doubt, however, that Stoltenberg himself had plenty of reason to smile. His party racked up 35.3 percent of the vote and 64 seats in Parliament (called the Storting ), three more than it has now.Labour will also have a stronger position in relation to its two government partners, the Socialist Left (SV) and the Center Party (Sp), because SV lost ground and ended with just 6.2 percent of the vote while Sp got 6.3 percent.

That set off immediate speculation that Labour should be able to claim more ministerial seats in the government and push forth its views on specific issues. Stoltenberg wouldn’t comment, saying he’ll now concentrate on preparing a new platform with his government partners and a new state budget before he announces a new team line-up.He said he was looking forward to “four new exciting and important years,” and he thanked both his opponents and supporters as party faithful chanted “fire nye år” (four new years) in the crowded public hall known as Folkets Hus (The Peoples’ House).

Meanwhile, at a theater up the street,Norway’s second-most popular prime minister candidate was crowing over the best election results in the history of the Progress Party. Siv Jensen, who’s long been considered Stoltenberg’s arch rival, claimed she was pleased and proud of her party’s performance.

“It was just fantastic,” she said, calling her voters “the toughest in Norway” because they “managed to think for themselves.”

She congratulated Stoltenberg on his party’s victory and said her non-socialist side suffered from a lack of cooperation among the non-socialist parties. She made it clear she thinks the small Christian Democrats and Liberal parties spoiled the non-socialists’ chances of forming a clear government alternative to Stoltenberg’s red-green coalition. Even Kristin Halvorsen, leader of the Socialist Left (SV), seemed to agree, saying voters opted for “Jens or chaos.”Both Jensen and Conservatives leader Erna Solberg were in surprisingly good moods, though, given the fact that they lost their stab at government power. Jensen was already talking about a new chance in 2013, while Solberg was happy that her party gained eight new seats in Parliament. It’s expected that Jensen and Solberg will start making a new attempt at cooperating fairly soon.

The small parties fared the worstin Monday’s election, which had voter turnout of 71.7 percent. Both the Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti, KrF) and the Liberals (Venstre) logged miserable results, with Liberals leader Lars Sponheim losing his seat in Parliament andsaying he’d resign as party leader. Sponheim, who had refused to cooperate with the Progress Party, wouldn’t accept any blame for the failure of the non-socialist parties to offer voters a clear government alternative, claiming he lost votes to Labour. Analysts begged to differ, suggesting that voters punished Sponheim, a veteran politician, for failing to cooperate and for his positions on various issues.

The Christian Democrats, which once held the prime minister’s post but ended with just 5.6 percent of Monday’s vote, claimed they’d had “goodwill” during the campaign but failed to transform it into votes. They vowed to be “tougher” as an opposition party, and to attempt to rebuild Norway’s centrist parties.

Stoltenberg said he thought it would be “easier” to build a new platform with SV and the Center Party, because they’ve worked together for four years already and cooperate well. SV’s Halvorsen, who may continue as finance minister, vowed to push her party’s opposition to offshore oil exploration around scenic Lofoten, its pro-environmental views and its support for schools. “A vote for SV was a vote the red-green coalition,” she claimed at a party leader debate held after results were clear around midnight. “It won’t be pure Labour Party politics.”

Jens simply smiled and later said he was “going home,” to celebrate Labour’s victory with family and “some friends.”