New president for Parliament

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Olemic Thommessen, a veteran politician for the Conservatives, had been widely tipped to be Norway’s new minister for cultural affairs in the new Conservative-led government. Instead, he was tapped to be the new President of the Parliament (Stortingspresident), a move that seemed to surprise everyone including himself.

Olemic (Olaf Michael) Thommessen is heading into a new and prestigious post as "Stortingspresident," the president of the Norwegian parliament, officially ranked second-highest in the country after the monarch. PHOTO: Høyre

Olemic (Olaf Michael) Thommessen is heading into a new and prestigious post as “Stortingspresident,” the president of the Norwegian parliament, officially ranked second-highest in the country after the monarch. PHOTO: Høyre

Thommessen quickly said it wasn’t up to him where Prime Minister-elect Erna Solberg chose to place him. And she apparently wanted him in the spot that officially is the second-highest post in the country, after King Harald V.

Thommessen told reporters that it took him a week to make up his mind about saying “yes,” but he did, and he’ll now succeed Dag Terje Andersen of the Labour Party when he becomes the Conservatives’ first President of the Parliament since Jo Benkow stepped down 20 years ago.

Thommessen is educated as a lawyer specializing in intellectual property and rights to content. He’s originally from Lillehammer, the son of a captain and an actress. His mother, Mona Lie, was also a book editor, which may have given root to his interest in cultural affairs.

His unusual first name is a combination of his given names, Olaf Michael, and been his nickname for years.

After moving to the Oslo area in his youth, he went on to study at the University of Oslo and became a partner in the law firm Eggen & Thommessen. In 1990, however, he became active with the organizing committee for the 1994 Winter Olympics back home in Lillehammer, and Thommessen ultimately was responsible for its torch relay and opening ceremonies.

After that he headed the production company Kulturarrangement Lillehammer, where he also worked on such projects as a pilgrims’ trek in 1997, the 60th birthday celebrations for King Harald and Queen Sonja and the opening of Oslo’s new airport at Gardermoen.

He’s been a Member of Parliament for the past 12 years but also has remained active within amateur theater as an actor and director, and he’s written several plays. That’s what prompted the speculation that he’d be Minister of Culture, but Solberg clearly wanted him at the Parliament, where he, among other things, will play an active role in next year’s bicentennial celebrations of Norway’s constitution.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund