Looming birth halts party boss’ speech

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The Christian Democrats are the latest of Norway’s political parties set to gather for their annual national meeting, but their leader won’t be holding its important opening address on Friday. Knut Arild Hareide’s wife is expecting their second child any day now, and he’s opted to stay by her side.

Knut Arild Hareide said he won't be delivering the opening address at his party's annual national meeting on Friday, because he didn't want to miss the birth of his second child. PHOTO: Kristelig Folkeparti

Knut Arild Hareide said he won’t be delivering the opening address at his party’s annual national meeting on Friday, because he doesn’t want to miss the birth of his second child. PHOTO: Kristelig Folkeparti

“My wife knows very well what’s most important for me,” Hareide told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “Becoming a father is one of life’s ‘Christmas Eves.’ The party’s national meeting isn’t quite the same.”

While the impending birth may have spoiled Hareide’s plans to rev up his troops ahead of the fall elections, it also presented him with a golden opportunity to promote his party’s family values. Like most male politicians, he also took full advantage of Norway’s paternity leave allowance when the couple’s first child was born, also at a busy time of the political year.

Hareide most recently has been playing a major role in the drive for Norway to accept 10,000 more refugees from Syria. He nonetheless agreed with his wife Lisa Maria that if their baby didn’t show up by midnight on Tuesday, he would drop plans to travel to Trondheim, where the party is holding its annual meeting. He would instead turn over responsibility for delivering the opening address to the Christian Democrats’ deputy leader Dagrun Eriksen. She’ll now step in on his behalf.

Conflicts on the agenda
Their party is currently embroiled in conflicts with the conservative government coalition that it otherwise supports in Parliament. The weekend meeting is expected to produce the latest demand for the government to accept 10,000 more Syrian refugees in addition to sending more humanitarian aid to refugee camps and other relief efforts. The government opposes acceptance of 10,000 refugees and has called on the Christian Democrats to respect the agreement regarding refugees that they already have in place.

The Christian Democrats also firmly oppose the government’s proposal to allow retailers to open for business on Sundays if they so choose. That issue has prompted Hareide to threaten to withdraw support for the government, and was also expected to be a major issue at the party’s weekend meeting.

The small party only holds around 5 percent of the vote in Norway but its support is nonetheless important as it can give the government a majority in Parliament. The Christian Democrats could thus topple the government if it votes against the government parties, which is what gives them power and attention, arguably out of proportion to their support among voters.

Hareide confirmed to newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that the party may indeed break off its cooperation with the government, not least over the issue of Sunday openings. Now he won’t be taking part in party discussions over the weekend, though, which will keep all the other Christian Democrats’ delegates working themselves on Sunday.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund