Uncertainty flies over new coalition

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Conservative Party leader Erna Solberg, who likely will be charged with forming a new non-socialist government coalition after the upcoming election, still can’t or won’t say who it will include. Uncertainty rose this week, after two of her potential government partners claimed they won’t govern after all with the most conservative Progress Party.

Pressure is growing on Conservatives leader Erna Solberg (right), as she seems increasingly forced to choose between cooperating in a new non-socialist coalition government with Siv Jensen of the Progress Party (left) or with two much smaller center-right parties. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Pressure is growing on Conservatives leader Erna Solberg (right), as she seems increasingly forced to choose between cooperating in a new non-socialist coalition government with Siv Jensen of the Progress Party (left) or with two much smaller center-right parties. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Statements by Trine Skei Grande of the Liberal Party and Knut Arild Hareide of the Christian Democrats to newspaper Dagsavisen on Monday added to the uncertainty swirling around what kind of new government coalition Norway might get after the September 9 parliamentary election. It’s supposed to be up to the voters to decide who governs, but maneuvering among the parties for which the voters actually vote in Norway means that even if the Progress Party emerges as the country’s second- or third-largest party, it may once again be blocked from sharing in government power.

That’s because the Liberals and the Christian Democrats, who place themselves as center-right parties, now say they won’t share government power with the Progress Party. That pretty much seems to smash the plans Solberg has been building up for months to form a four-party coalition led by her Conservatives and including the Progress Party, the Liberals and the Christian Democrats.

PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/NRK screen grab

Incumbent Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg is challenging Erna Solberg of the Conservatives to make up her mind. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/NRK screen grab

That seems to leave Solberg with either forming a two-party coalition between just her party and the Progress Party, which would arguably result in the most right-wing government Norway has had in modern history, or freezing out Progress and forming what may be a minority government with the two centrist parties. Going it alone would likely be too risky, with a strictly Conservative government vulnerable to fall over a multitude of potential issues.

Solberg has admitted that Grande tipped her off to Monday’s interview with Dagsavisen, in which the Liberal and the Christian Democrats seemed to irrevocably distance themselves from the Progress Party, but Solberg didn’t warn Progress Party leader Siv Jensen. Jensen says she was thus caught by surprise on Monday when her two potential partners turned their backs on her. Both the Liberals and the Christian Democrats, though, claim they differ too much with Jensen on issues such as oil drilling off Lofoten and Vesterålen, paternity leave, tax policy and care for refugee children to even enter into negotiations on a government platform.

Incumbent Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, re-energized after a new batch of better poll results for his Labour Party, went on the offensive once again, much as he did at their party leader debate last week. Stoltenberg challenged Solberg to answer questions about who will sit in a non-socialist government if her three potential partners won’t negotiate with each other.

“Erna says they have worked to build up a non-socialist government alternative for nearly eight years,” he told Dagsavisen. “But they lack two important things: Who will participate and what their politics will be!”

Solberg, challenged herself by the centrist parties’ refusal to work with the Progress Party, must now decide who she’ll work with. All she’ll say is that “we’ll sit down after the election, talk about politics and discuss a foundation for a new government. We’re inviting everyone to join.”

Voters are left with little insight into how the non-socialists would rule, or how long a coalition might last. Labour, with some polls showing that it once again is bigger than the Conservatives, may try to take over, although it remains doubtful whether Labour’s current partners will be strong enough to revive their left-center coalition.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund