Bergen caught in political ‘crisis’

Bookmark and Share

UPDATED: Norway’s west coast city of Bergen draws tens of thousands of tourists every year, but often seems to suffer local political turmoil. It’s happening again, after the new Labour Party-led city government coalition that finally was formed just last fall is already on the verge of collapse.

The disagreement is over the digitalization of contact between local schools and the parents of their pupils. Flaws in a new app made the system insecure, allowing just about anyone to click their way to information about the children, also in cases where they needed protection from potential domestic violence.

That led to criticism and a lack of confidence in the Labour politician in charge of education, Linn Kristin Engø. City government leader Roger Valhammer, also representing Labour, then declared that “a lack of confidence against one of my (government members)” would amount to a lack of confidence against all of them.

Since an actual vote on the issue isn’t due until March 11, political uncertainty was swirling. “Welcome to Bergen,” Jens Kihl, political commentator at newspaper Bergens Tidende, wryly told Oslo newspaper Dagsavisen. “If you think something here is strange,  that’s probably correct.”

On Monday afternoon Engø resigned her post, saying she’d also been “quarreling” with Valhammer all weekend. Engø claimed she was “taking the consequences of the political situation in Bergen.” Valhammer insisted that “more (people) than Engø” are also responsible.

Labour’s ally in other governments, the Socialist Left (SV), has accused Labour of power plays and arrogance, but seems unlikely to ally itself with the Conservatives. On Monday he called Engø’s decision to resign “wise.” It hadn’t built voter confidence in their leaders when the city officials’ rush to digitalization left them referring to the lack of digital security security as merely “an unfortunate error that can happen in the digitalization process.”

None of the other parties has been able to form a clear majority. The current troubled coalition consists of Labour, the Christian Democrats (normally at odds with Labour), the Liberals (who are non-socialists in Norway), and the Greens, collectively with just 25 of 67 seats on the city council.

newsinenglish.no staff