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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Liberal Party goes conservative

Norway’s small Liberal Party (Venstre) may be able to push a new non-socialist government coalition into place following next year’s parliamentary elections, after a major change in political alliances was approved at the party’s annual national meeting over the weekend.

Venstre leader Trine Skei Grande has broad support within the ranks and is keen to revive her party's fortunes, also to extend a hand to the conservative Progress Party. PHOTO: Venstre/Caroline Roka

Venstre has long been a party at the center of Norwegian politics that swings more towards the left (which is what “venstre” means in Norwegian) but views itself as non-socialist. Now it’s swinging more to the right than ever before, after a vast majority of party members voted to cooperate with Norway’s  most conservative party, the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp).

Venstre is going through a renewal of sorts, with a new and popular leader, Trine Skei Grande, in place. It’s still suffering badly in public opinion polls, though, the most recent of which only give it 3.7 percent of the vote. If it manages to drum up more voter support over the next year, its new attitude on political alliances indicate it would help form a government made up of Frp and the Conservative Party (Høyre).

It wouldn’t be the first time Venstre (“left”) shared government power with Høyre (which means “right” in Norwegian). They were both in the government coalition along with the Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkepartiet, Krf) when they lost the election in 2005 that ushered current Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s left-center Labour -led coalition into power. It’s hung on to it since.

But it would absolutely be the first time Venstre would support a government with Frp. Former Venstre leader Lars Sponheim, who resigned in 2009 after disastrous election results, once vowed that Venstre never would join an alliance with Frp or support it. That hard line has softened indeed.

“There a great desire within Venstre for a change in government,” Grande told newspaper Dagsavisen on Monday, after the party meeting was over. “In order to get that, we are willing to cooperate over a broad spectrum.”

There are a few conditions, however: Venstre will enter government negotiations with all the non-socialist parties if they win a majority after the national elections in 2013. Venstre would prefer to rule with Høyre and Krf, but can also support a Høyre-Frp government. Political negotiations will be the determining factor.

Some Venstre delegates remained skeptical, claiming there’s great distance between the political platforms of Venstre and the Progress Party, especially on immigration and environmental issues. Grande agrees, but thinks there’s little chance Venstre and Frp would rule  together. It’s more likely Frp and Høyre will, with Venstre as a supporter in parliament.

Grande called the change a more “constructive” approach towards cooperation among the parties now in opposition. Høyre welcome the move. Frp will hold its annual national meeting this coming weekend.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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