The Christian Democrats’ party is threatening to dump its agreement to support Norway’s non-socialist minority government. It became the latest political party over the weekend to defy the government by demanding, among other things, that Norway accepts 10,000 more refugees from Syria, putting Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s cabinet in a bind.
The Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti, KrF) only won 5.6 percent of the vote at the last national elections in 2013, but they’ve wielded power through their pledge to support the minority government coalition formed by the Conservatives and the Progress Party. They’ve thus managed to win influence on a variety of issues despite their small share of voter support.
Now they not only want Norway to welcome far more Syrian refugees than the government does, but they are also bitterly opposed to the government coalition’s proposal to allow retail establishments to open for business on Sundays if they choose to do so. They also advocate more support for farmers than the government is willing to give, they want asylum seekers to be able to put their children in state-subsidized day care centers and they differ with the government on a host of other issues as well.
Several party veterans claimed during their annual national meeting meeting in Trondheim this weekend that their views now seem more in line with those of Labour, which leads the opposition in Parliament, than with Solberg’s Conservatives who lead the government. The Christian Democrats have rarely agreed with the Conservatives’ coalition partner, the Progress Party, but nonetheless agreed to support their minority coalition in return for influence.
Now that support is evaporating. Dagrun Eriksen, who led the Christian Democrats’ annual national meeting in Trondheim, denied she and the party were posing an ultimatum to the government, telling newspaper Aftenposten they were simply issuing “strong marching orders.” If they’re not followed, though, the underlying threat voiced by many party members is that they’ll break out of their support pact.
Eriksen, stepping in for party leader Knut Arild Hareide because his wife was expecting their second child, told Aftenposten it was merely “up to the government what they can live with” on the issue of Syrian refugees. The government’s other support party, the Liberals, also wants Norway to welcome 10,000 more refugees as does Labour. That means they all must either compromise on at least a few thousand more, or the government may fall.
Pummeling the Progress Party
It was the Conservatives’ coalition partner, the Progress Party, that caught the most criticism at the Christian Democrats’ meeting in Trondheim. The Progress Party doesn’t want to take in any more refugees, opting instead to “help them where they are,” mostly in overfilled refugee camps. But they’re not keen on allocating more funding to the refugee cause, while the Christian Democrats also want to triple the humanitarian aid Norway has been sending to the refugee effort.
Kjell Magne Bondevik, a former prime minister for the Christian Democrats, joined other party fellows in suggesting that their politics are now more compatible with Labour than with the government. Another small centrist party, the Center Party, is also courting the Christian Democrats. Together, Labour, the Christian Democrats and the Center Party could form the basis of a new majority in Parliament.
Meanwhile, newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that all delegates to the Christian Democrats’ revival meeting of sorts in Trondheim received a “selfie stick” sporting the party’s logo that could allow them to more easily take photos of themselves with their mobile phones. According to DN commentator Kjetil B Alstadheim, they started posting photos on social media “faster than most fall asleep during a church service,” and seemed self-confident indeed.
While the Christian Democrats clearly have grown weary of supporting the Progress Party in government, they did have many good words to say about the Progress Party’s transport minister, Ketil Solvik-Olsen. He won high marks for the job he’s done to improve road-building and train service.
“God bless them,” Solvik-Olsen told DN. It doesn’t hurt that Solvik-Olsen is a Christian himself, and doesn’t drink alcohol.