Red and blue lights were blinking again during the weekend over the fate of Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s non-socialist government. As of Monday morning, Solberg still hadn’t managed to win agreement to finally form an expanded conservative coalition that finally would give it a majority in Parliament.
There have been few leaks from the government talks that began January 2 in Hadeland and there’s been no official announcement over the status of the talks. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) and other media, however, had reported that members of the national boards of all four conservative parties involved had been told to clear their schedules for meetings on Monday. That was a sign that they needed to be prepared to quickly meet to review a new platform proposal for an expanded majority government.
On Sunday those meetings were abruptly cancelled. It was clear that there still wasn’t any agreement among Solberg’s Conservatives and the Progress, Liberal and Christian Democrats’ parties. It’s only after the negotiation leaders for all four parties strike a deal that the parties’ boards will be called in to read through it, offer their own advice and then ultimately vote to accept or reject it.
Needed more time
The four non-socialist parties clearly need more time to hammer out their differences, which have been over thorny issues including how many refugees Norway should take in, how the need for emissions cuts should be made, whether Norway’s abortion law should be tightened up and even how drug addicts should be treated.
Solberg wasn’t able, therefore, to present any new government platform on Monday that had been agreed on by all four parties. Political commentators were speculating that the four party’s boards may be called in on Tuesday or Wednesday, two full weeks after the intensive talks began.
The talks involve all party leaders except the Christian Democrats’ Knut Arild Hareide, who had wanted his small party to form a new government coalition with the left-center side of Norwegian politics instead of the conservative coalition. Hareide lost his bid in voting last fall that showed how deeply split the Christian Democrats really are. His role in such a coalition has also thus been a matter of debate, with some of his brethren wanting him to become a minister in a new non-socialist coalition. He has responded that it “wouldn’t be natural” for him to join a coalition he was ready to topple, and since he disagrees so strongly on many issues with the Progress Party.
The options that remain:
Norwegians, meanwhile, were left waiting to see whether Solberg will be able to strengthen her government power, whether her current minority coalition can simply continue as it has (with the Christian Democrats still part of the opposition in Parliament), or whether Labour will be able to woo the Christian Democrats over to their side, meaning Solberg’s government would likely fall.
Speculation was also rising that the Progress Party may pull out of Solberg’s coalition if they feel they face too many compromises to appease the Christian Democrats. That would leave Solberg with just her Conservatives and two small parties that currently hold less than 4 percent of the vote in public opinion polls. Progress in opposition could support such a minority coalition on various issues, but its existence would be threatened on almost a daily basis.