Halvorsen resigns as SV’s leader

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Election Night took a dramatic turn on Monday when veteran Norwegian politician Kristin Halvorsen announced she’d be resigning as leader of the Socialist Left party (SV), one of the three parties making up Norway’s government coalition. Halvorsen went public with her decision to quit just as returns from municipal elections confirmed a major drop in her party’s voter support.

Longtime SV leader Kristin Halvorsen, just after announcing on Election NIght, on national TV, that she intended to resign. PHOTO: NRK/Views and News

Halvorsen’s party had been trailing in public opinion polls, and it was only holding around 4.5 percent of the vote as returns came in from the city and county elections held around the country. Halvorsen told her party faithful that SV needs renewal, and said she would recommend that her colleagues “elect a new leader” when the party convenes for its annual meeting next spring.

She said she’d already decided to step down as party leader prior to the next national elections in 2013. Asked why she was resigning now, Halvorsen said it was “because I’ve been party leader for nearly 15 years” and she feels it’s time for a change as SV made a poor showing in the elections.

Waiting in the wings to take over SV is the next generation, including current cabinet minister Audun Lysbakken (center). At left, SV's other deputy leader. Bård Vegar Solhjell. PHOTO: NRK/View and News

“We must rebuild enthusiasm, we need renewal,” she told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Otherwise, she warned, “much of what we have built up will be torn down.”

It was unclear whether Halvorsen, age 52, will continue as a government minister in the current three-party left-center coalition that’s dominated by the Labour Party. Asked whether she would retain her seat in the government, she said “I hope so – I’m ready (to continue) even though I’d no longer be the boss (of her party).”

Halvorsen quickly added, though, that a decision on SV’s candidates for government ministries would be made by the new leadership, not by herself. She served initially as Finance Minister when SV first won a stab at government control after national elections in 2005. She moved over to head the Education Ministry after the government coalition won re-election in 2009.

SV has two deputy leaders, and political commentators were quick to predict that Audun Lysbakken, the government’s youngest member who currently serves as its minister in charge of family and equality issues, would be the most likely successor for Halvorsen. Lysbakken is a left-leaning, energetic and well-spoken member of SV’s next generation who’s won praise both within and outside his party. He recently has held a higher profile than SV’s other deputy, Bård Vegar Solhjell, who left the government but still serves as a Member of Parliament.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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