Government intact, at least for now

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“We have received very clear marching orders,” Progress Party leader and Finance Minister Siv Jensen said late Wednesday, while confirming that her party will remain as a member of Norway’s conservative government coalition. She avoided  a government crisis, but still needs to deliver cuts in the country’s road tolls.

Progress Party leader Siv Jensen (left) in happier days, celebrating the conservative government’s 5th anniversary with Prime Minister Erna Solberg of the Conservatives (center) and Trine Skei Grande of the Liberal Party. Questions remain whether their coalition,which now also includes the Christian Democrats, will stay together. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

“We had a good but quite demanding national board meeting,” Jensen said after what most called a “crisis” session with her party’s county leaders. She needed to fend off demands that Progress drop out of Norway’s conservative government coalition, because of public uproar over road tolls.

“We have received very clear reaction that we must obtain more concessions,”  Jensen said. Her party voted unanimously that she and her fellow party leaders must continue to negotiate to halt more urban transport projects financed with road tolls, cut costs of existing projects, continue to reduce road toll debt, be clear that the Progress Party opposes tolls to finance roadbuilding and demand higher local financial contributions when the state helps fund local transport projects.

“We don’t know what we’ll achieve, but we have very clear marching orders from county leaders, the party’s grass roots and voters,” Jensen said.

The Parliament is due to vote later this month on new road projects that involve financing from road tolls. Jensen said her party still stands behind the government’s policy and is a “credible, cooperative partner.”

What’s changed, she said, is that “folks out there think the burden on them has become too much.” She indicated that her party and others need to take the public unrest over road tolls seriously.

If the Progress Party doesn’t get support or concessions from its government partners, it may still leave the government and return to the opposition, leaving the Conservatives, the Christian Democrats and the Liberal Party as a minority government but likely with continued support from Progress on many issues.

The Liberals have already claimed that Progress can’t expect more concessions beyond those made in the government coalition’s declaration in January, while the Christian Democrats have said much the same. Prime Minister Erna Solberg of the Conservatives was in Portsmouth, England on Wednesday for the 75th anniversary celebration of D-Day, but will ultimately be responsible for trying to hold her government together.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund