Frp pulls out of Oslo’s government

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More than two weeks after municipal elections were held in Norway, the country’s capital remained without a city government on Tuesday. The Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) pulled out of its eight-year ruling coalition with the Conservatives (Høyre) after refusing to go along with Høyre’s plans for a new high-rise Munch Museum on the waterfront at Bjørvika.

It remained unclear which parties will be forming a city government here in Oslo's City Hall. PHOTO: Views and News

About the only thing that seemed clear after Frp’s withdrawal from the city’s government body (byrådet) with Høyre was that the high-rise museum version called “Lambda” likely won’t be built. Høyre now lacks a majority for it among the parties elected to the city council (bystyret), several of which have proposed their own plans for a new Munch Museum.

Negotiations have been going on ever since Høyre did well in the elections on September 11-12, at Frp’s expense. Høyre, however, failed to win enough votes to form a majority government all by itself, leaving it to seek support from the other non-socialist parties represented on the city council.

First it tried to negotiate simultaneously with both Frp, the Liberals (Venstre) and the Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti, KrF), but Frp objected. So Høyre’s team, led by byrådsleder Stian Berger Røsland, spent the past few days negotiating only with Frp. On Monday night, negotiations fell apart, mostly over the museum project.

This controversial version of a new Munch Museum next to the Opera House at Bjørvika likely won't be built. PHOTO: MIR/Herreros Arquitectos/Oslo kommune

“We calculate that it will cost three- to four billion kroner,” Frp veteran Carl I Hagen, elected to a seat on Oslo’s city council, told newspaper Dagsavisen. “Oslo is in a difficult economic situation and we would rather use money to improve elder care, schools and the roads. Then we can’t use an enormous amount on a prestigious colossus at Bjørvika.”

There was no point, then, in continuing the government cooperation the two parties have had in Oslo’s byråd. Hagen stressed that Frp and Høyre “split as friends,” and said Frp would continue to cooperate with Høyre on such issues as the city budget. Even though it’s widely considered to have lost the election earlier this month, Frp will retain power by being the swing vote on individual issues as they come up. The non-socialist parties will need Frp’s support to prevail.

Now Høyre is expected to sit down with Venstre, which supports the Lambda version of a new Munch Museum, but the two of them would still lack a majority to push it through. Høyre and Venstre have different views on other issues, though, so if they fail to agree on a coalition platform for a byråd with KrF, Høyre may form a minority government on its own and fill its positions with its own people. Then it will be subject, however, to support from the bystyret on all issues.

Both Høyre and Venstre made a point of noting that Oslo still has an overall non-socialist (borgelig) majority. “The central point is that broad non-socialist cooperation can continue, and we’re happy about that,” Høyre’s deputy leader Jan Tore Sanner told newspaper Aftenposten. “We have full confidence the parties will find their way forward to the best solution.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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