A rising chorus of veterans in the Socialist Left party (SV) is calling for its withdrawal from Norway’s left-center government coalition. They believe SV leader Kristin Halvorsen has compromised on too many issues, for the sake of government unity, and that a withdrawal is the only way to restore the party line.
“SV must find a reasonable basis to pull out of the government,” the leader of the Meråker SV chapter in Nord-Trøndelag, Olav Gilsåmo, told newspaper Dagsavisen on Friday. A long-overdue but expected government statement on climate issues is one possibility, Gilsåmo said.
Climate and other environmental issues have been among the most disputed among the three government parties (SV, Labour and the Center Party). It’s widely believed that the government’s climate statement has been delayed because of disagreement, with SV demanding much tougher climate measures than Labour and the Center Party.
SV’s voter popularity has sunk markedly since SV joined the government for the first time ever after national elections in 2005. After years of being part of the opposition, SV suddenly sat with some government power and had to defend government policies instead of being a noisy critic of them. The problem is that its government power has been limited, because of the need to compromise with Labour and the Center Party. It’s gone along with Norway’s involvement in Afghanistan, the government’s purchase of new and expensive fighter jets, decisions to delay carbon capture at Statoil’s Mongstad plant and a long list of other measures that SV likely would otherwise have opposed.
“We’ve had to keep out mouths shut as long as we sit in the government,” Gilsåmo told SV. Now it’s time to rise up and stand for what SV really believes, he said, and rebuild the party by leaving government, as ironic as that may seem.
Anne-Karin Ødegården, leader of the SV chapter in Enebakk, agrees. “We need to leave government to avoid more wear and tear on SV,” she told Dagsavisen. “Enough’s enough.” A government withdrawal now would give SV two years, until the next national elections in the fall of 2013, to re-emerge firmly with its own agenda and, party faithful hope, win voters back.
Halvorsen has already signaled her withdrawal as party leader this spring. With recent public opinion polls showing SV with less than 4 percent of the vote, the need to attract more voters is acute, and the party may not have much to lose by leaving government.
A withdrawal, however, would deplete the coalition led by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who’s managed to hold it together for six years. It would also negate the government’s majority in Parliament. SV leaders are expected to debate the issue at upcoming party meetings.
“We listen to all proposals,” party secretary Silje Schei Tveitdal told Dagsavisen. She noted, however, that she thinks a majority of SV members are more interested in developing a better strategy for getting its positions on issues adopted by the government coalition, instead of abandoning it.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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