Stoltenberg still has ‘a lot to give’

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Jens Stoltenberg, whose Labour Party emerged from Monday’s parliamentary election as Norway’s biggest party but lost government power, will still function as Norway’s prime minister for at least another month. If he gets his way, the popular premier will regain his post at the next election because he thinks he still has “a lot to give.”

Jens Stoltenberg, still Norway's prime minister for another month, meeting reporters on the day after his Labour Party won the spot as the country's largest party but nonetheless lost government power. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

Jens Stoltenberg, still Norway’s prime minister for another month, meeting reporters on the day after his Labour Party won the spot as the country’s largest party but nonetheless lost government power. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

Stoltenberg has spent his time since Election Night huddling with his party colleagues to analyze election results, meeting reporters and, in between, mentally preparing to move out of the prime minister’s residence just behind the Royal Palace. He and his diplomat wife Ingrid Schulerud will move back to the duplex they’ve shared for years with Stoltenberg’s sister Camilla in Oslo’s Nordberg district, and he’ll commute to a new office in the Parliament building (Stortinget), where he’ll regain his seat.

On the day after Norwegian voters failed to give Stoltenberg a third term in office, the 54-year-old veteran politician wasn’t acting like a loser. Full of energy and in good humour with his customary charm intact, Stoltenberg was on the offensive at a meeting with Norwegian reporters. “I will carry on in the Storting as parliamentary leader, and I look forward to be leader for the biggest party in the parliament,” he said.

Stoltenberg and party colleagues watching election returns come in Monday night. He conceded his position as prime minister shortly thereafter. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet

Stoltenberg (second from right) and party colleagues watching election returns come in Monday night. He conceded his position as prime minister shortly thereafter. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet

Even though the party he leads lost government power in Monday’s election, Stoltenberg doesn’t think there’s any move afoot to unseat him. He’s been a popular and unifying leader of the party after years of internal conflict and turbulence. It’s up to the party’s national meeting to formally decide on its leadership, he noted, but he “hasn’t noticed any debate” over his leadership. “We did manage to become the country’s largest party,” he said.

Speculation has flown for years that Stoltenberg is a prime candidate to take on a high-ranking international job, possibly at the United Nations (UN). After 20 years in top government posts and nearly a decade as prime minister, Stoltenberg has an enormous professional network around the world and is used to working with such figures as billionaire Bill Gates. He downplayed the scenario of moving out of Norwegian politics and on to the world stage, though, saying that he views Norwegian politics as “a good platform” for both Norwegian and international work.

He also made it clear he’d love a comeback as prime minister after the next parliamentary elections in 2017. “I have no other plans than to continue in Norwegian politics,” Stoltenberg said, adding that he can’t think of anything that’s more meaningful for him.

And he said he doesn’t feel old at all, even after all his time in the demanding political environment. “I’m a political person and I feel that I still have a lot to give,” Stoltenberg said. “I have a lot more grey hair, but feel this is a meaningful and important job.”

Meanwhile, it’s “business as usual” in the Office of the Prime Minister, where he and his government colleagues still must put the final touches on their proposed state budget for 2014, which they’re obligated to deliver on Monday October 14. After that, he and his government will resign, leaving Erna Solberg of the Conservatives to form a new, probably right-center government that’s expected to be unveiled officially on Friday October 18.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund