Progress Party veteran returns

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Prime Minister Erna Solberg didn’t wait for King Harald to come home from a state visit to Chile this week to formally appoint Jøran Kallmyr  as the country’s new justice minister. Crown Prince Haakon did the honours as regent on Friday, and now Solberg hopes for more stability at the important ministry that will remain under the Progress Party’s control.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg of the Conservative Party was caught in a cold March wind as she strode out of the Royal Palace Friday to present her conservative coalition government’s new justice minister. Jøran Kallmyr of the Progress Party was taking over on Friday afternoon. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

Kallmyr replaces Tor Mikkel Wara, who felt compelled to resign on Thursday.  Wara’s live-in partner is under police investigation for allegedly fabricating a string of alleged threats made against Wara and the couple’s own home in Oslo. Norway’s police and courts operate independently but report to the justice ministry, so conflicts of interest could have arisen if Wara remained as the ministry’s top political leader.

Kallmyr is a 40-year old lawyer and long-time politician for the Progress Party from Romsdal, specifically the area that made headlines last weekend as the site of a near-cruiseship disaster. He was leader of the Progress Party’s youth organization in 2000 and later served as a top politician for the City of Oslo after he’d moved to the Norwegian capital.

Kallmyr also served as a state secretary in the current conservative coalition government’s justice ministry from October 2014 until Februay 2016, when he opted to return to private practice, this time as a partner in the Ræder law firm in Oslo. He thus is familiar with the ministry and will be working closely with a Progress Party colleague recently named as minister in charge of preparedness, Ingvil Smines Tybring-Gjedde.

‘Cold and hard’
He’ll be in charge of both justice and immigration, the latter being a major issue for the Progress Party that’s long argued for restrictive policy on both immigration and asylum. Kallmyr was often controversial as a state secretary, for viewing refugees as a threat to Norway’s social welfare state instead of as people in need and an eventual resource.

Joran Kallmyr was assuming his new duties as justice minister immediately. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

State broadcaster NRK recalled on Friday how Kallmyr’s critics described him as “cold and hard” in his efforts to keep refugees out of Norway, especially during the migration wave of 2015. “Many think they’re coming to gold and green forests when they come here, but that’s not how it is,” he said in 2015. When asylum seekers housed initially in makeshift shelters upon arrival lacked food, he replied that they were “free to turn around” and leave Norway.

He’ll be Norway’s sixth justice minister in as many years. The Progress Party wanted and won control over justice when they first formed Norway’s conservative coalition government following the national election in 2013, and their first justice minister lasted for three years. Turnover has been high, however, since Anders Anundsen asked to resign in 2016 and was succeeded by Per-Willy Amundsen and then, after just a year, Sylvi Listhaug. She lasted only three months until being forced to resign after controversially claiming that the Labour Party was more conerned about the rights of terrorists than national security. Wara replaced Listhaug last spring but resigned this week after his live-in partner was charged with fabricating a criminal event and possibly more.

High turnover ‘unfortunate’
Transport Minister Jon Georg Dale was temporarily named as justice minister when Wara first went out on leave two weeks ago. Dale was turning over the keys to the justice minister’s office to Kallmyr on Friday afternoon.

Solberg claimed at a press conference following Kallmyr’s appointment that it would not have been “natural” to make more major changes in her government or have her Conservative Party take over control of the justice ministry. She admitted that the frequent changes of ministers from the Progress Party were “unfortunate,” but she now hopes for “more continuity and stability” at a ministry in charge of an ongoing police reform and several other major issues. Immigration and asylum arrivals, meanwhile, are already at their lowest levels in many years.

Asked whether she felt confident Kallmyr would remain as justice minister until the next national election in 2021, Solberg said with a smile that she hopes he’ll remain until 2025, following another re-election victory.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund