City governments finally in place

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Politicians in Oslo could finally announce their new government line-up on Monday, six weeks after municipal elections were held in Norway. It’s also taken politicians in other cities a long time to get their governments in place, because of a need for lengthy political negotiations.

There's been changes within political leadership inside this building, Oslo's City Hall. PHOTO: Views and News

The number of parties involved in elections in Norway often means that governments can only be formed through party coalitions. It’s seldom that one single party gets enough votes to form a government itself with majority control.

In Oslo, the Conservative Party was widely viewed as winning the election after capturing 36 percent of the vote. That was enough for the Conservatives’ Fabian Stang to keep his job as mayor, but not enough to continue with the same governing coalition, called byrådet. The Conservatives (Høyre) had shared government power for eight years with the even more conservative Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp), but Frp only won around 7 percent of the vote in the September election. That prompted them to ultimately pull out of byrådet, especially after withdrawing support to build a new Munch Museum on the waterfront at Bjørvika.

That in turn left Høyre to seek support from other parties and they found it with the Liberals (Venstre), which won more voter support than Frp and will now take over some key city posts including head of transportation and the environment. That key post will go to Venstre’s Ola Elvestuen, who’s an advocate of more bicycle lanes and better public transport, while Venstre’s Hallstein Bjercke will become byråd for culture and business affairs. Elvestuen is the national deputy leader of Venstre and a veteran politician. Bjercke is an economist and director of the high-tech trade industry association IKT-Norge and a former leader of the youth organization Europeisk Ungdom.

The Conservatives also had to turn to the Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti) for support. They only won around 2 percent of the vote, but enough to give the Conservative-led coalition a majority. The Christian Democrats’ Aud Kvalbein will take over as head of elder care issues in the city government.

The Conservatives retain top posts and five out of the total of eight, including overall leader of the byråd, Stian Bergen Røsland, finance leader Kristin Vinje, education leader Torger Ødegaard, planning and development leader Bård Folke Fredriksen and social services leader Anniken Hauglie.

They will present their new platform to the city council (bystyre) on Wednesday. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Monday that it will include a proposed crackdown on bars and restaurants alcohol serving practices, and may lead to earlier closing hours.

Bergen’s line-up also ready
Meanwhile, the city government in Bergen was only formed at the end of last week. It’s also led by the Conservatives, with Monica Mæland as leader and her party colleagues holding three of seven posts (schools and health) plus the mayor’s seat. Unlike the situation in Oslo, the Conservatives in Bergen will continue to share power with the Progress Party, which has two leadership posts (finance and culture/business) and also with the Christian Democrats, which will be charge of planning, development and the environment and social services.

While negotiations also have gone in other communities all over Norway, it has been perhaps most dramatic in Vågå, in the mountains of central Norway. That’s where Labour Party Mayor Rune Øygard looks set to continue in his post despite being charged with sexual assault against a young girl. Øygard has been on sick leave since the charges were filed but denies his guilt and wants to continue in the job to which he won another election victory last month. A police investigation is continuing.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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