Jensen ‘sad’ over Nobel conflict

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It seems there’s never a dull moment in the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp), with conflict often breaking out within its own ranks. Tensions reached new levels on Wednesday, and now party leader Siv Jensen claims she’s just “sad” over her predecessor’s angry reaction to her failure to secure him a spot on the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Siv Jensen, who took over as Progress Party leader after Carl I Hagen, said she's "sad" that Hagen is now so angry and resigning from party posts. PHOTO: Fremskrittspartiet/Progress Party

Carl I Hagen, the longtime Progress Party boss who turned over the reins to Jensen, has now launched a full-scale attack against Jensen and other party leaders. He’s furious and disappointed that they didn’t fulfill his request to be the party’s new representative on the Nobel committee. Instead, at a meeting last week, they opted to let their current Nobel representative, Inger-Marie Ytterhorn, continue for a third term.

Hagen, who led the party for 28 years and rose to become vice-president of the Norwegian Parliament, thought he deserved one of the coveted seats on the prestigious committee and wanted to replace Ytterhorn, to top off his career. When the party’s decision to support Ytterhorn over Hagen became clear, Hagen went on the warpath, clearing out his office, resigning from top party posts and writing a scathing 18-point memo on why he’s so angry to fellow party officials, the party’s Members of Parliament and, now, the media.

Jensen, who already has had a tough year tackling everything from sex scandals to her own physical injury to a poor showing at municipal elections, said she was sad and sorry about the whole situation. She told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Wednesday that it was “a sad day” for the party.

“I express that feeling because the entire party recognizes what he (Hagen) has done for the party,” Jensen told NRK. “Therefore it’s sad that he’s reacting in this way.”

Jensen stressed that the party’s decision to retain Ytterhorn on the Nobel committee was “a democratic decision,” with Ytterhorn getting 25 votes compared to six for Hagen. “It was a democratic process where the incumbent member was re-elected,” Jensen said. She regrets that Hagen “has chosen to react” in the way that he has.

Hagen said on Wednesday that he now feels “unwanted and humiliated” by his fellow party colleagues. They shattered his dream of getting a seat on the committee that decides who will win the Nobel Peace Prize, and it came as a “shock” because he had expected Jensen and other party officials to honor his request that they choose him for the party’s allotted spot on the committee.

The conflict may mean that Hagen finally will make a full retreat from national politics, which in turn may come as a relief to Jensen and others who to some degree have remained in his shadow. It was unclear whether Hagen will remain in his position on the Oslo City Council, where he represents the Progress Party after also losing a bid for the mayor’s seat.

There was some good news for the party on Wednesday: A new public opinion poll conducted by research firm Opinion for newspaper group ANB showed that voter support for the Progress Party soared 6.7 percentage points, to 17.8 percent of the vote in October. The jump came at the expense of Labour and the Conservatives, which both lost voter support. The new poll remains well below the Progress Party’s earlier standings, though, when it could claim around 30 percent of the vote just two years ago.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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