Stoltenberg seeks historic third term

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Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg confirmed over the weekend that his political ambitions match those of the late, legendary Labour prime minister Einar Gerhardsen. Stoltenberg was met by thunderous applause from party colleagues in Rogaland, western Norway, when he told them he intended to win a third national election for Labour in a row.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg won support and some gifts - a fishing pole and rain hat - when he visited Labour Party faithful in Stavanger over the weekend. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet

Stoltenberg traveled over to the west coast to urge the Rogaland chapter of the Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet) to back his own support for another controversial directive from the EU, governing work rules for temporary employees. He initially met a lukewarm reception to his ideas, but later proved he’s as popular and persuasive as ever.

In typical Stoltenberg style, he took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and energetically explained to his assembled Labour colleagues that the directive would be a good thing for temporary workers. They ended up agreeing, with Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reporting Sunday afternoon that the chapter had voted 81-33 in favor of the directive, called Vikarbyrådirektivet in Norwegian.

The support for Stoltenberg himself was anything but lukewarm, as he received long and loud applause on arrival and again when he shared his dream of winning a third term of Labour leading Norway’s government.

Supporters lined up to be photographed with Stoltenberg when he spoke to a Rogaland Labour chapter meeting on Saturday. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet

“We won the election in 2005 and were re-elected in 2009,” Stoltenberg told the group. “That was the first time a government had been re-elected since 1993 (when Labour won a second term). In 2013 we can win our third election in a row. We have to go back to the 1950s (when Gerhardsen won a third term), but it’s entirely possible.”

Labour has topped Norway’s public opinion polls for months now and Stoltenberg personally won widespread respect and support, also across party lines, for his leadership following last year’s terrorist attacks. The reaction to his remarks in Stavanger on Saturday made it clear how he can keep folks on his side.

Labour versus a Conservatives-Liberals-Christian coalition
His party will likely face an opposition coalition made up of the Conservative Party (Høyre), the Liberal Party (Venstre) and the Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti, KrF), given remarks made by Venstre leader Trine Skei Grande when her small but potentially pivotal party gathered for its national board meeting on Saturday.

She had opened for potential political cooperation with the country’s most conservative party, the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp), earlier last week, as had other key Venstre officials. But at the national meeting, she said she thought political differences between Venstre and Frp were too strong to sit in a government coalition together.

“It’s a coalition with Høyre, Venstre and KrF that’s our government alternative,” Grande told her colleagues. She added later that “when you compare our party programs on climate, immigration and economic issues, you’ll see there’s considerable distance between them. Therefore I see little probability of day-to-day cooperation with Frp.”

Norway’s next national election will be held in the fall of 2013, with Labour likely keen to retain its coalition with the Socialist Left and the Center Party.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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