Jens more popular than ever

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Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg could head into the Christmas holiday weekend with strong support from his fellow Norwegians. He wound up on the front page of local newspapers on Wednesday for his high standing among voters, while his Labour Party has solid support as well.

After one of the most challenging years for Norway since World War II, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg can head into the holidays more popular than ever. PHOTO: Statsministerskontor (SMK)

Stoltenberg was given a perfect score of six by newspaper Dagsavisen, which described him as “a solid pine tree towering over the underbrush.” He was hailed for his leadership after the terrorist attacks on July 22, when his call for “more democracy, more openness” and more compassion formed the immediate response from a shocked nation.

Stoltenberg continues to be praised for his emergence as a statesman and “landsfader” (literally, “land’s father”) after being re-elected as the country’s top political leader the year before. He has spent the rest of the autumn trying to protect Norway’s economy from the financial turmoil overseas, and his government has won credit for maintaining one of the strongest economies in the world for the past several years. There’s a widespread feeling, also among other political parties, that it’s one thing to be a nation wealthy in natural resources like oil. It’s another thing to manage that wealth, and most seem to think Stoltenberg’s government is doing a pretty good job.

Stoltenberg is even more popular as a leader among members of other political parties, which helps explain the growth in Labour’s membership this year. There’s also been a lot of sympathy for Stoltenberg and Labour, given all the lives lost among young members of the party, but that wave crested months ago. Still, Stoltenberg remains on top.

‘Just did my job’
Newspaper Aftenposten’s rankings, based on a poll conducted by research firm Respons Analyse, saw Stoltenberg climb from a score of 3.8 in June to 4.4 this week, also with a top score being 6. Only the perennially popular foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, scored higher, at 4.8, up from 4.7 in June.

Stoltenberg prefers to see his rise in popularity as a result of his coalition government working together “to secure jobs at a time of great economic problems in Europe.” Asked about the effect of July 22, he said he “would be careful about speculating over that. I just did my job after July 22 and formulated a message in times that demanded one.”

Stoltenberg has also credited his wife, diplomat Ingrid Schulerud, for being an enormous source of support during the weeks following July 22. Stoltenberg will speak at a memorial at the Oslo Cathedral on Thursday, marking the five-month anniversary of the attacks, but then is expected to take some time off during the Christmas weekend. He told newspaper Dagbladet earlier this week that he now looks forward to spend some time with his family and friends over good food like herring and herring salad.

The other most highly ranked members of Stoltenberg’s government include Finance Minister Sigbjørn Johnsen, former Defense Minister and now Justice Minister Grete Faremo and new Defense Minister Espen Barth Eide, all from the Labour Party.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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