Pressure grows on party leader

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Liv Signe Navarsete is now receiving direct calls to resign as leader of the deeply troubled Center Party (Senterpartiet, Sp), while her quest to “smoke out” those who leaked details of a critical report on the party’s leadership is meeting strong resistance. Sp members, meanwhile, have been deserting the party in droves.

Liv Signe Navarsete, shown here during the Center Party's disastrous election campaign, is now facing calls to resign. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/NRK screen grab

Liv Signe Navarsete, shown here during the Center Party’s disastrous election campaign, is now facing calls to resign. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/NRK screen grab

Newspaper Klassekampen reported on Friday that Sp’s membership roster has been cut in half since 2000 and that all told, it has lost more members than all of Norway’s political parties combined.

The dramatic reduction has taken Sp’s membership ranks “down to a critical level,” according to Klassekampen’s review of the party’s own internal evaluation of what caused the party’s worst election results ever last fall. Sp reportedly has so few active members in some communities, that it threatens its ability to run a “proper election campaign.”

Meanwhile, Navarsete is under more fire for choosing to go after the person or persons who leaked details of the report, released Wednesday, to Norwegian media. “It must be a goal to smoke out whoever is behind this,” Navarsete said on state broadcaster NRK’s Politisk Kvarter program Thursday morning. “There were so few who had access to the information, so it shouldn’t be an impossible task.”

That’s led to even more dissension within her party, and criticism of her priorities. While her deputy leaders agreed with Navarsete, as did the leader of the group that wrote the report, many other top Sp politicians view Navarsete’s so-called “witch hunt” as unnecessary and divisive, as it casts suspicion on all members of the commission who wrote the critical report. They claimed it is much more important to learn from the report, follow its advice for improvements and move forward with a focus on political issues, not internal strife.

Critics in high places
Even a former government minister for Sp, Terje Riis-Johansen, told NRK that Navarsete should drop her hunt for the sources of the leaks, and Member of Parliament Jenny Klinge agrees. Klinge told newspaper Dagsavisen that Navarsete should rather “square up” with deputy leader Ola Borten Moe, with whom Navarsete has been embroiled in conflict, and move forward.

“I can understand how she (Navarsete) thinks, but it’s sad if the entire commission is now being eyed with suspicion,” Klinge said. “The only thing we should do now is concentrate on our politics and the way we work.” Bjarne Undheim, a member of the commission who claims he didn’t leak its report, said he would like to know who did, but thinks it’s a “waste of energy” and the “wrong use of resources” at a critical time for the party.

Criticism of Navarsete and Sp’s leadership continued to roll in, meanwhile, with the political editor of Trønder-Avisa (published in an area where Sp traditionally has had strong support) said the commission’s report reflects “a party in crisis” and a party leader who’s out of control, referring to Sp’s leadership as “dysfunctional.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund