Oil Minister set to bow out, for now

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It wasn’t too long ago that bullish Oil Minister Ola Borten Moe of the Center Party seemed keen on becoming prime minister some day. On Monday he said he wouldn’t be standing for re-election to Parliament and wanted to get some experience from outside politics.

Ola Borten Moe, Norway's oil and energy minister from the Center Party, said Monday that he won't be seeing re-election next autumn. PHOTO: Senterpartiet

His announcement caught some by surprise and set off speculation about the motivations behind it: His party has lost so much voter popularity of late that his current seat in Parliament may vanish anyway. The Labour-led left-center government coalition in which he also sits has been badly lagging in recent public opinion polls as well. There’s no guarantee now that his rural-oriented party will win representation in Parliament, much less be able to continue as part of the government.

That means his ministry post would also vanish. At the same time, his spot as apparent crown prince in the Center Party seems challenged by Marit Arnstad, the former Center Party oil minister in an earlier government who made a return to politics earlier this year and currently serves as transport minister.

Moe’s bullishness on oil exploration has also sparked opposition not only from environmentalists but from members of his own party, which tries to present an environmentally friendly profile despite its desire to kill all of Norway’s wolves along with other predators that threaten farmers’ grazing sheep.

Moe himself said that after “a careful evaluation” he had told the nomination committee in his home district of Sør-Trøndelag that he wouldn’t be a candidate for a top spot on the party’s candidate lists in advance of next autumn’s national elections.

“I will have represented the Center Party for 18 years by the next election, 10 of them full-time,” Moe stated. “I have decided that I don’t want to commit myself to four new years in the Parliament. This has been a difficult decision for me.”

He claims he “wants, over time, to gain more experience also outside of politics. There will always be arguments against such a decision. At the same time I think there must be room both in the Center Party and Norwegian politics to do just this.”

Moe claimed his decision wasn’t “a farewell to Norwegian politics.” At the age of 36, he said, “there will hopefully be more opportunities to work for Center Party politics in the years ahead.”

He said he had “no concrete plans” apart from the operation of his family farm in Trøndelag. Speculation rose, though, that he may already have a new job lined up in the oil and gas industry that he’s been enthusiastically boosting, or that he wants one.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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