Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, the former agriculture minister from Hedmark known for always wanting to protect his fellow farmers, now looks likely to become the next leader of the small farmer-friendly Center Party after top candidate Marit Arnstad said she didn’t want the job. Arnstad has given Vedum her support.
“I don’t think anyone can challenge him for the position now,” social researcher Jon Helge Lesjø told state broadcaster NRK on Wednesday.
Arnstad was the top choice among members of the deeply troubled Center Party, which logged its worst election result ever when it won just 5.5 percent of the vote last September. The party has since lost even more voter support and has been ravaged by internal conflict that led to the resignation of embattled leader Liv Signe Navarsete last month.
But Arnstad, a party veteran who has served as a government minister in earlier coalitions that included the Center Party, played hard to get and finally announced on Tuesday that she didn’t want to take over as party leader.
“I have taken stock of myself and concluded once again that I don’t see myself as leader,” Arnstad told newspaper Aftenposten. She added that she had delivered that message to the party’s election committee, which started its selection process in earnest over the weekend and had Arnstad high on their lists.
Many had stated that they thought Arnstad, now a Member of Parliament, could unify a party that currently is deeply split into various factions. She thinks she can do a better job for the party in other roles.
“I also think that the current deputy leader (referring to Vedum who is one of two) has qualities that I don’t have and that I think are important for a party leader,” Arnstad said. “He is communicative, outgoing and can drum up enthusiasm in an entirely different way than I can. And that will be important for a future party leader.”
She has recommended that he be nominated as party leader. Slagsvold, currently on a “study tour” in the US, wouldn’t comment on his own contact with the party’s election committee, but said “the goal now must be to put together the best possible team and that we have a common desire to get the best out of ourselves.”