Split widens within Christian Democrats

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The small Christian Democrats party (KrF), which may join Norway’s conservative coalition government, is now so split itself that it faces an internal probe into how party leaders behaved before a recent vote on the party’s political direction. After a majority voted to side with Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s conservatives, some key members are also considering breaking out and forming their own new party. 

Members of the Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti, KrF) were split before they voted on their political direction. Now they’re even more split, after a majority voted at an extradordinary national meeting to side with Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s conservative coalition. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

Newspaper VG reported Monday that one of KrF’s deputy leaders, Kjell Ingolf Ropstad, began to argue nearly three weeks before the vote that it would be possible to change Norway’s abortion law if they sided with Solberg’s non-socialist coalition. Ropstad, according to VG, based his argument on an allegedly secret meeting he had with Solberg and the rest of the Conservatives’ leadership on October 11.

That set off what VG called “strong reaction” from within the party that Ropstad broke the party’s own rules regarding its conflict over political direction. Party leader Knut Arild Hareide had recommended talks with the Labour and Center parties to form a new government, while Ropstad and fellow deputy leader Olaug Bollestad favoured siding with Solberg.

Serious’
KrF officials reportedly had agreed not to involve any other parties in its internal campaign to decide on political direction. VG‘s report on Monday suggests Ropstad very much involved the Conservative Party. “If that’s correct, it’s serious,” Karin Bjørkhaug, a member of KrF’s central board, told Trondheim newspaper Adresseavisen on Monday.”It would weaken the entire foundation for the decision that was made (to join Solberg’s Conservatives-led government).”

Bjørkhaug is thus calling for a new extraordinary national board meeting. She wants to find out what happened in the run-up to the party’s actual vote on November 2, when a majority opted to enter into budget and government negotiations with Solberg’s coalition.

Dag Sele, leader of KrF’s county chapter in Hordaland, said he will now speak with Ropstad, who’s heavily involved at present in state budget negotiations with the government coalition parties. If they succeed, KrF will then negotiate actually joining Solberg’s government and giving it the majority it has long sought in Parliament.

“I think the information in VG is so surprising … that I want to speak with him first before I comment further,” Sele told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Monday.

Discussions on defecting
Several key KrF members, meanwhile, already have been discussing what they’ll do if government negotiations succeed. Not all want their party to sit in the same government with the right-wing Progress Party.

“I expect that an initiative to start a new party will arise,” Tore Christiansen, one of KrF’s many municipal politicians, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). He said it was difficult to know how many KrF veterans will defect, but DN reported they may include former state secretaries, Members of Parliament and central board members.

“Some people talk about leaving the party and joining another established party,” Christiansen told DN, “while others are serious about forming a new party.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund