Justice Minister Anders Anundsen survived a serious scolding in the Storting (Parliament) on Tuesday after a vote of no-confidence against him failed to muster enough support. Anundsen had to tolerate a verbal tongue-lashing, though, over last year’s deportations of asylum families.
While Anundsen hung on to his job, Members of Parliament did formalize their “strong criticism” that he had not delivered enough information to them about the status of asylum children (called asylbarna), nor had he followed up changes in political agreements regarding their deportation. Those changes meant that families with children who had spent most of their lives in Norway were not supposed to be a top priority for police when they needed to decide who would be sent out of Norway first. Norwegian police, for whom the justice minister is ultimately responsible, continued to deport them, allegedly because Anundsen had failed to pass on the changes in the government compromise to them. Anundsen had also been informed of each deportation before it occurred, and didn’t block them.
The opposition parties were predictably Anundsen’s toughest critics during his grilling on the floor of the Parliament. Both Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre and MP Martin Kolberg, a former secretary of the Labour Party, declared their lack of confidence in Anundsen and called for a vote. It only won support, though, from MPs representing Labour and its former left-center government coalition partners, the Socialist Left (SV) and the Center Party. As names were called and MPs had to respond ja or nei on whether to effectively sack Anundsen, the conservative majority ensured that the move to oust Anundsen would fail, which it did by a vote of 97-72.
The conservative minority government coalition and its two support parties had already agreed to a new compromise on the asylbarna issue, so it was clear in advance that Anundsen, who had served as a respected MP from the Progress Party before he was appointed justice minister, would keep his job. The very fact that a proposed lack of confidence measure made it to the floor of the Parliament, however, was significant and Anundsen was duly chastened. He accepted the criticism of his actions and said he’d “learned a lot” from the storm he weathered, both about “how one should perform and about how to share information.”
He told reporters after the lengthy and highly uncomfortable session in Parliament that the case had led to “some changes in routines” in his ministry that he thinks are important. Anundsen, who was also criticized for refusing to answer questions or talk to reporters during the height of the asylbarna debate, admitted he’d been “very withdrawn” about taking part in the debate over asylbarna because it was up for legal evaluation. “I’ve also learned a few things from that,” he said.
Kolberg of the Labour Party said he was disappointed that Anundsen will remain as justice minister. He and other opposition politicians claimed that Anundsen will need to work hard to regain their confidence and his own credibility. Kolberg still thinks Prime Minister Erna Solberg should reevaluate whether Anundsen should continue as justice minister. She has earlier indicated that she retains confidence in him.