Earliest returns: Non-socialists lead

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The first rounds of election results just after polls closed in Norway Monday night showed what the public opinion polls had been suggesting for months: Labour Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s coalition government has lost its grip after eight years in office. The non-socialist parties, meanwhile, may be able to form a majority government, but only if all four participate.

The earliest election returns suggested that Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg may need to turn his office over to Erna Solberg of the Conservative Party. The two met for another dual appearance in the studio of Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) before the first returns emerged Monday evening. PHOTO: NRK screen shot/newsinenglish.no

The earliest election returns suggested that Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg may need to turn his office over to Erna Solberg of the Conservative Party. The two met for another dual appearance in the studio of Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) before the first returns emerged Monday evening. PHOTO: NRK screen shot/newsinenglish.no

Stoltenberg’s Labour Party remained the largest in the land with just over 30 percent of the vote as the results of advance voting and the first 41 of 428 municipalities reported their results. That was bigger than expected, with the Conservatives holding just 26.2 percent of the vote by comparison.

Stoltenberg nonetheless looked set to lose government power because his partners didn’t attract enough votes to put them over the top. The Socialist Left party (SV) especially was hovering around 4 percent of the vote, down from 6.1 percent in the last election and 8.8 percent in the 2005 election that swept them into office. The Center Party (Sp) did much better than expected, with 7.9 percent, but the night was young and even its deputy leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum wouldn’t comment directly on whether his days as agriculture minister were numbered.

All told, the current left-center Labour-led coalition had less than 43 percent of the vote compared to the non-socialist parties’ 52.8 percent if the Conservatives’ leader Erna Solberg can hammer out a coalition platform with the Progress Party (16.2 percent), the Liberals (4.6 percent) and the Christian Democrats (5.9 percent).

It was the latter’s early strength that surprised many, and stands to make negotiations more difficult for Solberg. The Christian Democrats and the Progress Party disagree on many issues but Solberg may need both of them to form a government. If the Progress Party bows out, she may wind up not only with a minority government but it may not even be strong enough to prevail over Stoltenberg’s.

Vote-counting continued and all the party officials were careful to repeat again and again that the early results were just that, early. The real test comes when Oslo’s results are tallied later in the evening.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund