The Labour Party’s decision to back a proposed vote expressing lack of confidence in Justice Minister Anders Anundsen appears to have ensured his survival. It forced the government’s two support parties in Parliament, which had initiated the drive against Anundsen, to face having to actually topple the government, and they backed down on Thursday.
Anundsen lost favour with both of his government’s support parties, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals, when it became known that he had deported rejected refugee families and their children (called asylbarna). That ran counter to an agreement hammered out between the government and the two parties, and they were both angry and disappointed.
Asylum seekers with children who had lived most of their lives in Norway were supposed to be able to remain in the country, even though their asylum applications had been rejected. Anundsen either overlooked or failed to communicate that agreement to police, and newspaper Bergens Tidende reported last fall that many families had been deported after many years in Norway.
Relations between the government and its support parties, which had lobbied to allow the asylum children to remain “home” in Norway, thus soured and other opposition parties claimed they were upset, too. Earlier this week, Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre announced that Labour, which claims the most seats in Parliament, had concluded that it “no longer had confidence in the justice minister” and would support a vote of lack of confidence.
That forced the Christian Democrats and the Liberals to make some hard choices. In the end, neither wanted to force a government crisis that would result in Prime Minister Erna Solberg either having to replace Anundsen or seeing the entire government resign.
“It became a case of ‘checkmate,'” one Christians Democrats insider told newspaper Dagsavisen on Thursday. The party simply didn’t want to be responsible for a government crisis, and nor did the Liberals. The Liberals concluded later on Thursday that they would not support a lack of confidence vote, meaning such a vote wouldn’t clear Parliament.
Both support parties are left having to explain why they now are protecting a justice minister whom they have harshly criticized for months. They can, however, use that protection to bargain for other favours from the government as its cooperation with the minority coalition bumps along.