New posts, platform face delays

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It may take awhile before Norway’s newly re-elected left-center government coalition can present either its platform or new ministerial appointments. Coalition leaders have a lot of negotiating to do, and at least one of them is insisting that they all must be “enthusiastic” about any changes.

Kristin Halvorsen, leader of the Socialist Left (SV) who seems keen to hang on to her post as Finance Minister, suggested as talks got underway that she’s not keen on accepting too many compromises.

Her party suffered the poorest election results of the three coalition parties and speculation is running high that SV may be asked to give up the finance ministry post, or lose a post altogether. “Enthusiasm for the (left-center) red-green project must be strong in all three parties,” she said. That was interpreted by several political analysts as a not-so-subtle warning that the future of the coalition itself is at stake.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of the Labour Party and Liv Signe Navarsete of the Center Party have been trying to stress the level of agreement among the coalition’s three members, instead of their areas of disagreement. Stoltenberg claims the coalition already has a solid foundation from its last four years in power, with firm plans in place for transport, the environment, elder and health care.

The government negotiations started the day after Stoltenberg returned to Norway after a busy week at the UN in New York and even an appearance at the British Labour Party Conference in Brighton on Sunday. While in Brighton, Stoltenberg took part in a panel discussion with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero.

Now it’s back to tackling domestic issues at home in Norway, and Stoltenberg immediately seemed to resume his role as leader of efforts to keep the coalition together. His Labour Party dominates, but will also be expected to compromise for the sake of retaining government power.

As for any looming ministerial changes, Stoltenberg said “they’ll come when they come,” suggesting that the government’s new line-up may not be ready in time for the October 8 opening of Parliament (Storting) or even the October 13 presentation of the government’s state budget proposal. Newspaper Aftenposten reported that Stoltenberg said it would be “natural” to allow current ministers to put forward their own budgets for their various ministries.

That suggests a delay of several more weeks, not just the 10 days that usually serves as a new government’s deadline. Negotiations among Stoltenberg, Halvorsen and Navarsete continued Tuesday and will go on into next week.