'Halvorsen out as Finance Minister'

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Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg is expected to announce his new government line-up early this week and speculation is swirling over who will be assigned to which posts. Norwegian media reported Saturday that Kristin Halvorsen will no longer be Finance Minister, at least in part because of her party’s poor performance in last month’s election.

TV2, NRK and Aftenposten claimed they had been able to confirm that Halvorsen will give up her post in the finance ministry and take over as Education Minister (called Kunnskapsminister , literally “Knowledge Minister,” in Norway).

It may only be a partial blow to Halvorsen, though: Her party, the Socialist Left (SV), has long had education at the top of its political agenda and the post already was held by an SV politician, Bård Vegar Solhjell. He will reportedly leave the government and take over as head of SV’s parliamentary group.

Halvorsen also has had a huge work load as both Finance Minister and head of her party. The education ministry, some say, may make the two jobs easier to combine.

Halvorsen has acknowledged since election results emerged that Norway’s coalition government, though re-elected, faced ministerial changes because SV lost voter support.

That now means SV likely is losing one ministerial post, leaving both it and the Center Party with four and Labour with at least double that amount since it’s the biggest of the three.Stoltenberg of Labour, meanwhile, needs to replace three of his top ministers after Dag Terje Andersen left the labour ministry to become president of Norway’s Parliament, Helga Pedersen left the fisheries ministry to lead Labour’s parliamentary group and Health Minister Bjarne Håkon Hanssen announced his desire to leave politics altogether.

Now it appears Labour will gain the finance ministry post, meaning Stoltenberg needs to fill it, too. Candidates include former Labour Finance Minister Sigbjørn Johnsen, Stoltenberg’s chief of staff Karl-Eirik Schøtt Pedersen and former Labour politician Grete Faremo.

Jonas Gahr Støre has said he wants to continue as Foreign Ministry, but speculation is high that Stoltenberg may want him to take over the difficult health ministry. Labour has several strong candidates for foreign minister, reported Aftenposten last week, including Espen Barth Eide, now a state secretary in the defense ministry, and Jan Egeland, a former UN envoy who now heads foreign policy research institute NUPI.

Stoltenberg is expected to announce the new government ministerial line-up either Tuesday or Wednesday.