Norway’s Socialist Left party (SV) is already threatening to topple her new “weakened” government, but Prime Minister Erna Solberg just kept smiling. The popular leader of the Conservatives won re-election Monday night after voters gave a majority to the non-socialist bloc of parties in Parliament, with Solberg in charge.
Votes were still being counted well after midnight, but there was little doubt Solberg would be the one to form a government for the next four years. Her Conservatives along with the Progress Party can now try to regain support from the Christian Democrats and the Liberals, which both won just enough votes to form another four-party majority.
That was more than Jonas Gahr Støre could muster for his embattled Labour Party, which delivered one of its worst election results ever with less than 30 percent of the vote. Even though Labour’s two potential government partners, SV and the Center Party, emerged as the election winners, the three still didn’t win enough seats to wrest power away from Solberg.
The two wildcards on the left side of politics also failed to perform as well as expected, with the Greens and the Reds only winning one seat each. That didn’t give them the swing votes necessary to have real political influence, or help Støre form a majority.
SV’s and Center’s success in winning far more voters than in 2013 was thus bittersweet, since it failed to win them influence as well. They both claimed they’d put up tough opposition in Parliament, however, with SV leader Audun Lysbakken vowing at the traditional late-night party leaders’ election wrap that Solberg couldn’t count on surviving for another four years as prime minister.
Both Solberg and Progress Party leader Siv Jensen are determined to prove him wrong, They attributed their re-election to their success at steering Norway through both an economic crisis after the oil price collapse and an immigration influx, while also delivering on many of their campaign promises from 2013.
Both Solberg and Jensen, who has been serving as Norway’s finance minister, claimed they simply “delivered results” during the past four years, and proved they could securely steer the country. “Our steady leadership won respect,” Solberg said during what amounted to her victory speech late Monday night.
Jensen, so happy that she was on the verge of tears when addressing her own party faithful, had said earlier in the evening that “all the predictions (that the Progress Party would fail at its first term in government) have been beaten down. We have managed, but we still have lots to do, we still want to build the country.”
Voters clearly agreed that Solberg and Jensen have done a good job, and deserved another term in office. It was a surprisingly close race, though, and now they first have to come to terms with the Christian Democrats and Liberals. Neither seems interested in joining a Solberg-led government coalition nor are either interested in another formal support agreement. They were both offended during the campaign by the provocative tactics and remarks of Jensen’s party colleague Sylvi Listhaug and contend that the Progress Party’s politics are too different from their own. The leader of the Christian Democrats, Knut Arild Hareide, has promised not to topple a Solberg-led government, however, and Liberals leader Trine Skei Grande was willing to listen to new proposals.
Both Jensen and Solberg said they all now just needed to sit down and talk together about how they can cooperate. Both seemed confident they can “find the best solutions” and carry on for the full four-year parliamentary period that begins in October. “We’ve handled some major challenges (during the past four years),” Solberg said. She’s sure they’ll handle the new government challenge as well.