Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who’s campaigning hard this week along Norway’s southwest coast, has won some important support in her re-election bid. The head of the Christian Democrats, after months of being courted by the opposition Labour Party, pledged to support a government led by Solberg instead of one led by Labour’s Jonas Gahr Støre.
“If KrF (Kristelig Folkeparti, the Christian Democrats Party) comes into a decisive position (after election results in September), we will go for Høyre (Solberg’s Conservative Party),” Knut Arild Hareide, leader of the Christian Democrats, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) when Solberg visited him at his parents’ home in Bømlo during her campaign swing through her own native Hordaland County.
Solberg had also made a courtesy call at Hareide’s family home during her 2013 campaign, and ended up with his party’s support for the government she’s led for the last four years. The Christian Democrats only won around 5 percent of the vote in 2013, but that can be enough to swing parliamentary results on major issues and often gave Solberg’s minority coalition with the conservative Progress Party the majority they needed.
Neither Hareide nor his Christian Democrats are fond of the Progress Party, though, differing sharply with Progress on key issues from immigration policy and asylum rules (claiming Progress is far too restrictive) to deregulation (where they feel Progress is far too liberal). They’ve mostly managed to strike compromises, but the Christian Democrats have said they won’t actually join a government that includes Progress.
‘I want Erna’
Solberg returned to Hareide’s home in Bømlo as prime minister, to smooth any ruffled feathers and promote her policies. She clearly had the support of non-socialist Christian voters like Hareide’s parents. “I want to have Erna for four new years,” Tordis Hareide, the party leader’s mother, told NRK.
That’s music to the ears of Solberg, who wants to keep her job but still needs the support of some of Norway’s small non-socialist centrist parties like the Christian Democrats and the Liberals. She thus included Bømlo on her campaign program this week that started in Bergen and has been moving on to Os. Stord, Haugesund, Randaberg, Stavanger, Klepp, Egersund, Flekkefjord, Lyngdal, Lindesnes, Mandal and Kristiansand.
Støre has also been courting the vote in the area hit hard by the oil price collapse three years ago. Both Støre and Solberg are acutely aware that jobs and job creation rank highest among the concerns of voters, and they’re trying hard to prove that each has the best solution for tackling unemployment.
“Voters face a clear choice this fall,” Solberg claims. “They can choose between politicians who want to punish companies and entrepreneurs who can create the new jobs, or they can choose politicians who support companies and entrepreneurs who will create the new jobs.” She puts herself firmly in the latter category, stressing how Labour is campaigning on a platform of raising taxes by at least NOK 15 billion over the next four years and reversing some her administration’s reforms and tax relief like cutting fortune tax and eliminating inheritance tax.
Hareide and Solberg have quarreled on a number of issues over the years, not least on several key budget issues where the Christian Democrats seemed more in agreement with Labour and the rural-oriented Center Party. The Christian Democrats’ attempts early in the four-year period to seemingly water down abortion rights for women also caused problems, but also would have for Labour.
Asked what he’ll do if Solberg fails to win a non-socialist majority, and whether he’d invite Støre to his parents’ home, Hareide replied: “Not if we get what we want, and we want a Conservatives-center government.” That may also include the Liberal Party, but it’s been lagging in the polls and may only win minimum representation in Parliament.
Both Solberg and Støre, meanwhile, have ruled out cooperating with the Greens Party. The Conservatives and Labour both support the oil industry, and Solberg noted how the Greens want to phase it out on environmental grounds. “When the Greens say they want to shut down the oil industry, it’s not possible for us to cooperate,” Solberg told NRK.