Coalition leaders not smiling now

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They all seemed a lot happier at the beginning of the summer, but with their government coalition under constant criticism, tensions keep rising among the three party leaders making it up. Divisive issues have led to solo outbursts that now seriously threaten the coalition’s united front.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg earlier this summer, with government coalition partners Liv Signe Navarsete of the Center Party (left) and Kristin Halvorsen of the Socialist Left (SV). PHOTO: regjeringen.no

The current controversy over the coalition’s decision to allow construction of power lines over and around the scenic Hardanger Fjord has set off the latest split. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of the Labour Party has defended the project, saying it’s critical to ensure enough electricity for Bergen. Kristin Halvorsen of the Socialist Left (SV) has never liked the project from an environmental standpoint and has claimed Liv Signe Navarsete of the Center Party pushed it through. On Monday, Navarsete told newspaper VG that she’s open for a re-evaluation of the project, which has been called the most bitter political issue of the year.

As Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg prepared for a meeting Tuesday with local mayors in the Hardanger area who oppose the project, he seems to be facing nearly as much opposition within his own ranks. The Hardanger conflict is just the latest in a long string of other issues that are sorely testing the coalition’s ability to cooperate.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Tuesday that several Labour Party politicians are growing weary of Labour’s two partners’ apparent need to mark their own turf and exhort their own opinions, often in opposition to their own government’s position.

Many of the solo outbursts come from Center Party and SV leaders at the local level, and Labour Party politicians think they’ve gone too far. “I think they’re exploiting (Labour’s) tolerance,” one Labour party player told Aftenposten. None of Aftenposten’s sources wanted to be identified.

Questions have been raised, meanwhile, over whether the coalition’s decision to allow state power agency Statkraft to build the disputed power lines was constitutional. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that some procedural details may invalidate the Oil and Energy Ministry’s approval.

The local mayors opposed to having what they’ve called “monster power masts” running through their districts were optimistic as they headed into their long-sought meeting with Stoltenberg. Most said they believed a solution could be found to the conflict that’s set to culminate with a massive protest in the mountains around Hardanger this weekend.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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