Veteran politician Marit Arnstad was elected as the new parliamentary leader of the deeply split Center Party (Senterpartiet, Sp) on Wednesday. Many party members wanted Arnstad to take on the overall leadership role after embattled former leader Liv Signe Navarsete was forced to resign in January, but Arnstad didn’t want the job.
After months of infighting, the Center Party elected its new leadership committee on Monday. The rest of the week has been spent firming up the rest of the management structure, reported newspaper Aftenposten. Newly-elected party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum could have also taken on the parliamentary leader role as Navarsete did before him, but decided on a different track.
“I am keen to build a broad and good team,” said Vedum, on the decision to appoint the experienced Arnstad to the parliamentary leader role. “She’s going to be a strong debater in Parliament and elsewhere in the public domain.”
“I look forward to leading the good political work of the parliamentary group, and I look forward to fighting for the approval of the Center Party’s policies,” Arnstad said in a statement. Navarsete promised to resign as parliamentary leader “as soon as possible” during her leadership farewell speech at Monday’s meeting.
The leadership shake-up came in the face of plummeting party memberships and its worst election result ever last September. Ongoing conflict between Navarsete and her deputy, Ola Borten Moe, caused division within the whole party. Many called for Moe to shoulder his share of the blame for the rift and resign from his position, just as Navarsete did.
Left party leadership to others
Arnstad was the initial favourite to lead the Center Party, with many seeing her best-suited to reunify it, but she decided in February she didn’t want the position, paving the way for Vedum to take over. She also took herself out of the running for either of the deputy roles, after controversial party member Moe announced he wanted to remain deputy party leader. Aftenposten reported it’s likely Arnstad “saved” Moe, because both represent the powerful Trøndelag party branch. It’s unlikely two Trønders would have been elected into both deputy positions.
Arnstad was transport minister from 2012 until the former Stoltenberg government was voted out last autumn. She previously served as parliamentary leader from 2003 to 2005 when Åslaug Haga led the Center Party.
Other positions settled on this week included Geir Pollestad as the new leader of the parliamentary industry committee, Arnstad’s former role. Janne Sjelmo Nordås, defeated by Anne Beathe Tvinnereim in the battle for second deputy on Monday, became the new parliamentary deputy.