The importance of being Erna

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Erna Solberg, leader of Norway’s Conservative Party, could finally announce on Monday night that she will finally and formally start the process of taking over as prime minister and forming a new government, after voters handed the non-socialist parties a solid majority in Monday’s parliamentary elections. She called her own party’s victory both “historic” and “important,” and linked it to one major factor: “The voters believed in us.”

Erna Solberg, head of Norway's Conservative Party, will start meeting soon with the other four non-socialist parties to negotiate a platform a new government that she will head as prime minister. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/newsinenglish.no

Erna Solberg, head of Norway’s Conservative Party, will start meeting soon with the other four non-socialist parties to negotiate a platform for a new government that she will head as prime minister. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/newsinenglish.no

Solberg made a triumphant entrance to her party’s victory celebration at an Oslo hotel Monday night after preliminary election results gave her party 27.3 percent of the vote with well over half the country’s precincts reporting. That’s less than what public opinion polls had suggested earlier this year, when her party scored more than 30 percent, but Solberg seemed genuinely pleased.

As the crowd chanted “Erna, Erna, Erna,” (roughly  pronounced “Air-na”), she then  announced that she already had called the leaders of the three other non-socialist parties and congratulated them with their own election results. “We will start meeting and give this country a new government,” Solberg said as her party faithful cheered.

With her party’s motto looming behind her on the podium (Nye ideer, bedre løsningerNew ideas, better solutions), the 52-year-old Solberg has an important and demanding job ahead of her. She’ll need to negotiate a common platform with the other parties of which the more conservative Progress Party is by far the biggest with around 16 percent of the vote pending final tallies. And she’ll need to strike a balance among their differing views on many key issues.

Siv Jensen, head of the conservative Progress Party, was energetic and on the offense in her own victory speech but also promised to "give and take" during negotiations to form a new government. It will be the first time the Progress Party is part of a government in Norway, and Jensen is widely tipped to be finance minister. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/newsinenglish.no

Siv Jensen, head of the conservative Progress Party, was energetic and on the offense in her own victory speech but also promised to “give and take” during negotiations to form a new government. It will be the first time the Progress Party is part of a government in Norway, and Jensen is widely tipped to be finance minister. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/newsinenglish.no

Siv Jensen, leader of the Progress Party, seemed to extend an unusually large dose of goodwill at her own party’s victory celebration at a nearby banquet hall. “We will be tough negotiators but we will have respect for all the others,” Jensen announced. “Everyone must be seen and heard, and must get something. We know that we must give, in order to get.”

Monday’s election results were particularly historic for the Progress Party, which has never held government power before and now stands to hold several key ministerial posts as the country’s third-largest party after Labour and the Conservatives. Together, Jensen’s and Solberg’s parties hold more than 43 percent of the vote alone and may only need one of the two other much smaller parties (The Liberals and Christian Democrats) to form a government pending final election results. The intent, however, is for all four parties to share government power in accordance with their election results.

Solberg, meanwhile, didn’t leave her victory podium without thanking “those who are going out of the government offices,” not least Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. Solberg graciously stated that they “deserve respect for the job they’ve done,” adding that Stoltenberg “has been a symbolic and unifying person for the entire nation.”

Meetings of the four parties are due to begin later this week, with Solberg intending to present a new government and take over shortly after Stoltenberg’s government delivers its state budget in mid-October and formally asks King Harald V to be relieved of duties.

“For many of us,” Solberg said, “the job has really just begun.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund