Center Party leader hangs on

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The leader of Norway’s embattled Center Party, which now commands less than 5 percent of the vote but nonetheless enjoys government power, refused to give up the helm over the weekend.

Center Party leader Liv Signe Navarsete, shown here on a mountain hike last summer, always claims that her party represents the whole country better than any other party. PHOTO: Senterpartiet

Liv Signe Navarsete isn’t about to release her grip on power, even though around 95 percent of Norway’s voters don’t support her politics. And even though she’s been in trouble for failing to declare some expensive gifts, and even though the party is under investigation for alleged misappropriation of funds.

Instead, Navarsete resorted to citing a classic Norwegian folk song by Alf Prøysen, which is all about the prospects of getting a fresh chance on a new day to correct all one’s mistakes from the day before. She admitted to party fellows at a national board meeting in Oslo that “last year was challenging for us,” but claimed that “now it’s time to look forward.”

She’s not happy about the investigation by the national police economic crimes unit Økokrim, which called her in for questioning last week, because it will “drag the case out” over time. “But it will be good to get all the facts on the table,” she said. “I hope we get that now.”

Several political commentators have speculated that an indictment would force Navarsete’s departure, just like her predecessor Åslaug Haga had to quit after getting in trouble for failing to get proper building permits for some private real estate projects. The Center Party’s leadership problems, and its tiny base of voter support, makes one wonder how they still manage to remain powerful, but most party members seem to genuinely feel they represent all of Norway like no other party, because they champion rural interests. The party excels at pitting the cities against outlying districts, and winning funding for infrastructure projects the cities can only dream about.

“The Center Party will survive both Økokrim and other shake-ups,” Navarsete vowed to her party faithful. “Those who want to see the party fall will be disappointed, once again.”

Meanwhile, budding deputy party leader Ola Borten Moe tried not to appear too eager to take over if Navarsete has to resign after all. He told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN), which broke the news about the party’s funding irregularities last fall, that he wants to contribute towards building up the party again “together with the rest of the leadership.” He, at least, admitted to mistakes by party leaders, including “poor reflexes” when tackling problems, poor knowledge of party financing laws and poor routines. He quickly noted, though, that the entire leadership needs to take responsibility for the mistakes, not just Navarsete.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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