‘Greener’ government grows in Oslo

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The two winning parties in the Oslo city election, plus a minor potential partner, are finally hashing out a prospective platform for a new coalition government. It will be led by the Conservatives (Høyre), with the small Liberal Party (Venstre) expected to give the coalition a much more environmentally conscious profile.

Venstre's Ola Elvestuen, pictured on the poster here during the election campaign, has promised more support for public transportation, bicycle lanes and parks and thus is expected to give Oslo a greener image. PHOTO: Views and News

Venstre will be taking over as a government partner from the much more conservative Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp), which lost half its voter support in the September 12 election in Oslo. Venstre is now slightly larger than Frp and political disagreement over construction of a new Munch Museum was the last straw for Frp: It formally resigned on Tuesday from the governing municipal body known as byråd after eight years of cooperation with Høyre.

Within hours, Høyre officials announced as expected that they were launching negotiations with both Venstre and the Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti, KrF) to form a new byråd. KrF has only tiny voter support in Oslo but it’s a non-socialist party that can give Høyre a swing vote on hotly contested issues. Høyre clearly believed it was better to invite KrF to the table than leave them in the city council (bystyret) as a far less predictable partner.

It’s Venstre’s sudden new role in city government that signals the biggest potential policy changes in Oslo. Venstre promotes a high environmental profile and its national leader, Trine Skei Grande, told newspaper Dagsavisen on Wednesday that “it will be noticeable that an Frp politician no longer will be miljøbyråd (the person in charge of environmental issues).”

That top job is ikely to go to Ola Elvestuen, Venstre’s deputy leader and highest-ranking politician in the proposed city government. He’s expected to take over responsibility for transportation issues as well and thus stands to front Venstre’s campaign promises: 24-hour public transport availability on all major routes and more overall support for bus, tram, train and T-bane systems, far more bicycle lanes, better access to the hills and forests and Oslo (called marka) and more attention to parks.

“For Venstre, participation in the byråd means that we can put even more pressure behind our politics,” Elvestuen told Dagsavisen. Both he and the chief negotiators for Høyre and KrF seemed confident the three parties would agree on a platform and get to work soon.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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