Solheim out in ministerial shake-up

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Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) was reporting Wednesday night that the new head of the government’s Socialist Left party (SV) has ousted veteran SV politician and former party leader Erik Solheim as the government minister in charge of both environmental and foreign aid issues. Solheim was said to be unhappy, and would be leaving the government against his will.

Erik Solheim led Norway's climate negotiations, promoted environmental causes and been in charge of Norway's foreign aid and development programs. Now Solheim, shown here on a visit to the Ivory Coast, is being replaced to make room for SV's deputy leaders. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet

NRK reported that new SV leader Audun Lysbakken told Solheim he was being replaced while at work Wednesday. Solheim headed as scheduled for Buskerud County to participate in a debate on predator policies Wednesday night and wouldn’t talk about the pending government shake-up. “I have absolutely no comment,” he told NRK.

Nor would Lysbakken comment. It’s been expected that a new line-up of SV ministers will be announced Friday, after the weekly Council of State at the Royal Palace, following Lysbakken’s election as party leader two weeks ago and his own resignation as a government minister over a funding scandal in his ministry.

Solheim had supported Lysbakken for the job as party leader, which he once held himself. Solheim has been among SV’s most experienced ministers after being active in SV for the past 30 years, serving as a Member of Parliament and also serving as a UN special envoy for peace negotiations in Sri Lanka.

SV's Tora Aasland is also reportedly on her way out of the government. PHOTO: Regjeringen.no

He’s not the only SV veteran forced to leave the government to usher in a new generation of SV politicians. Tora Aasland, who has served as minister for research and higher education, is also expected to be replaced on Friday, with former SV leader Kristin Halvorsen probably taking over all education responsibility.

Solheim and Aasland are being replaced to make room for SV’s deputy leaders in the government, Bård Vegar Solhjell and Inga Marte Thorkildsen. It causes a problem that SV’s own leader, Lysbakken, is no longer a minister so there’s also a possibility that may change, with some speculating Lysbakken may take over as environmental minister after all.

It’s also speculated that Heikki Holmås may assume a government post. He was Lysbakken’s chief rival for SV leader, and has broad support within the party.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported that Holmås will take over as minister for foreign aid, Solhjell as environmental mnister and Thorkildsen as minister in charge of family and equality issues, the post Lysbakken once held.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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