Ola Borten Moe was elected first deputy of the Center Party (Senterpartiet, Sp) at an extraordinary general meeting in Lillestrøm on Monday, putting to an end the heated leadership battle that all but tore the party apart. Earlier, Trygve Slagsvold Vedum was elected unopposed as the new Center Party leader, and got straight to work on his first task of repairing the rift.
Vedum won unanimous support when he announced he’d stand for leader of the small, protectionist, farming-focused party last month, after former leader Liv Signe Navarsete resigned in January in the face of ongoing turmoil. Navarsete’s resignation did little to calm the internal strife: while the selection committee backed Vedum, it was split over the position of first deputy, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
Under Navarsete, Moe and Vedum shared the deputy position. There was tension between Moe and Navarsete, and many said he should take his share of the blame for the party’s internal division and worst ever election result last September and resign as well. According to the selection committee, the majority wanted Anne Beathe Tvinnereim as deputy and Janne Sjelmo Nordås as second deputy, while the minority supported Moe as first and Tvinnereim as second deputy.
Moe’s win on Monday was some comfort, after months of personal attacks and accusations played out in the Norwegian media. The former Stoltenberg government petroleum and energy minister beat Tvinnereim with 160 votes to 142, who in turn became second deputy with 242 votes.
NRK reported Moe did not smile as he took to the stage to receive flowers and make his victory speech. “Thanks for the new trust,” he told the congress. “I’m going to be a deputy for the whole party. I’m going to put weight on that. When the national convention has reached this point, many will come to ask themselves if we have now overcome it. I don’t think so, but I will work so we overcome it and work together going forward. We will challenge the sitting government and have a local election to win in one and a half years.”
Moe said he regarded the win as a great personal victory. Tvinnereim congratulated him on the outcome, but said it was important the Center Party took some time to heal its wounds. “I’ll do everything I can to make myself worthy of the trust and will work together with Ola and Trygve to put Sp on the right track,” she said.
‘Grab a cup of coffee’
Vedum meanwhile announced a “coffee cup strategy” to begin to heal the rift. “If you disagree with someone about something, grab a cup of coffee,” he told the meeting. “Then we can get many new ideas and issues into the party. There are few places I have such great confidence in as that coffee cup.”
The 35-year-old was the agriculture and food minister under the former government. NRK reported Vedum hopes to further rally the party against the new Minister for Agriculture, the Progress Party’s (Fremskrittspartiet, FrP) Sylvi Listhaug. She plans to cut costs for Norwegian consumers, but Sp will be fighting on the farmers’ side when agriculture subsidies are negotiated in spring.
Vedum is the only member of the Center Party leadership with a seat in the Norwegian Parliament (Stortinget).