Party leader gives up her post

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Liv Signe Navarsete, the embattled leader of the severely troubled Center Party, has finally decided to call it quits. She now admits that she lacks enough confidence to continue, while some party members think her controversial deputy Ola Borten Moe should quit, too.

Liv Signe Navarsete has been in trouble for a long time, but the criticism against her reached fever pitch this past autumn. Now she's finally giving up her leadership of the Center Party, PHOTO: Senterpartiet

Liv Signe Navarsete has been in trouble for a long time, but the criticism against her reached fever pitch this past autumn. Now she’s finally giving up her leadership of the Center Party, PHOTO: Senterpartiet

Navarsete signalled her intention to resign at a party conference Saturday afternoon at the Grand Hotel in Kongsberg. Even though she’s been under pressure for the past two years, her announcement that the party should hold an extraordinary national meeting to consider new leadership wasn’t expected. She was supposed to talk about what the party wants for Norway. Instead she ended up saying that after much thought, she had decided it was best to let the national meeting be free to decide who should now lead, “through the election of a new leader and new deputy leaders.”

Navarsete has been leading the party along with Moe and his fellow deputy leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, while tension between Navarsete and Moe has been ongoing. The leadership as a whole was the target of massive criticism after the party logged its worst results ever in the national elections last September. Just last week, Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) also revealed that Narvarsete had asked a former government colleague to re-route a highway through her district, at great extra expense. The party, best known for fighting to maintain Norway’s protectionist and pro-farming policies, has continued to lose voter support, according to public opinion polls, and now barely has enough to maintain representation in Parliament.

The Center Party's deputy leader Ola Borten Moe arrived with a black eye at the party's board meeting on Wednesday, but claimed he'd been battered by last week's storm in Trøndelag, not the storm of criticism directed at the party's leadership. PHOTO: Cornelius Poppe / NTB Scanpix

Bruised but not giving up himself, the Center Party’s deputy leader Ola Borten Moe arrived with a black eye at a party board meeting last month. Moe claimed he’d been battered by a storm in his home district of Trøndelag, not the storm of criticism directed at the party’s leadership. PHOTO: Cornelius Poppe / NTB Scanpix

That’s left the leadership of the Center Party under fire for months, and several members including the veteran MP Per Olaf Lundteigen told NRK on Saturday that they think Moe should share responsibility for the party’s woes. Some, including the leader of the party’s Telemark chapter, Beate Marie Dahl Eide, suggested that Moe and others have “ruined things” for Navarsete and at least he should offer his resignation as well. Vedum, meanwhile, is now widely viewed as a likely new party leader.

“I firmly believe that Liv Signe would have been a much better leader without Ola Borten Moe (as deputy),” Eide told NRK. “I think he has systematically worked against Liv Signe and undermined her authority. There have been forces within the party who haven’t let Liv Signe have any peace.”

Moe isn’t known for admitting fault, though, and he told NRK after Navarsete’s announcement of her own impending resignation that he’s inclined to continue, at least in his deputy party leader role. The former Oil & Energy Minister for the party in the last left-center government coalition said he had “great respect for the decision Liv Signe has made today,” adding that it was “very important” that Navarsete finally clarified her own intentions.

He seems to have no intention of resigning himself, claiming that he now wants “to build the party up” again. He doesn’t agree with Lundteigen’s suggestion that he should take the fall along with Navarsete. “There are many who have responsibility for what’s happened within the party, but Liv Signe is the top leader,” Moe said. “As long as folks will have me, I’ll stay around.”

Trygve Slagsvold Vedum now seems the most likely to survive the storm around the Center Party's leadership. PHOTO: Senterpartiet

Trygve Slagsvold Vedum now seems the most likely to survive the storm around the Center Party’s leadership. PHOTO: Senterpartiet

Asked whether he feels he still has support among party members, Moe said “yes.” The grandson of former Center Party Prime Minister Per Borten did allow, though, that he thinks Vedum is now best-suited to take over Navarsete’s post. Others have long pointed to party veteran Marit Arnstad, who has served as a government minister in earlier coalitions, but she hasn’t seemed willing.

Navarsete, who said she will call for the extraordinary national meeting at what was expected to be a crisis meeting of board members on Tuesday, merely said that “there has been too much unrest” within the party, and that it’s important to be able to “focus on politics” instead of internal strife. “I think it will be good with fresh forces now,” Navarsete said.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund