Grande hung on as Liberals leader

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Trine Skei Grande survived a power struggle that could unseat her as leader of the Liberal Party. A party committee charged with forming a new leadership roster kept her at the top, but only after she rejected all reported calls for her to resign.

Trine Skei Grande has been clinging to power as head of the Liberal Party (Venstre), but remains under pressure from those wanting a massive renewal of the party’s leadership. PHOTO: Venstre/Celina Christoffersen

The committee’s decision to go along with Grande’s own wishes could have been overturned at the party’s annual meeting later this spring. Grande has been under severe pressure for years, as the small centrist party continued to lose voters even after joining the current conservative government coalition.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Grande later resigned, to “give others a chance.” See the updated story here.

The latest public opinion poll left the Liberal Party (Venstre) with just 2.7 percent of the vote. That’s far below the 4 percent needed for full representation in Parliament.

The lack of voter support is also a huge disappointment for Grande, who nonetheless tried to hang on to power by clearing the way for the appointment of two of her most actual rivals for posts as government ministers. She gave up her own ministerial post in charge of culture to Abid Raja (but went on to become education minister) and sacrificed her former ally Ola Elvestuen as environment minister, to usher in Sveinung Rotevatn. The 32-year-old Rotevatn (roughly pronounced row-tuh-vahtten) was accordingly nominated to be the party’s “first deputy” leader and Raja as “second deputy” leader.

Elvestuen, however, was furious that he was effectively fired after years of loyalty to Grande, and has let it be known. “Trine has apparently listened first and foremost to herself, to secure her own position,” a bitter Elvestuen told TV2 last week, suggesting she did not listen to the voters and other party members’ appeals for renewal.

Grande insists otherwise, claiming that bringing in Raja and Rotevatn amounts to significant renewal. It was party veteran Elvestuen and his fellow deputy leader, Terje Breivik, who were the victims of the renewal efforts that so far have not included herself.

Grande told TV2 that she thinks Elvestuen had done a good job. “I can understand that he’s disappointed, but the party has been clear for a long time about the demand for renewal,” she said. “In the process of forming a new government (following the withdrawal of the Progress Party in January), there are more people than Ola who are disappointed.”

There’s no question that the power struggle within the Liberals will continue, with many political observers expecting an uproar at the party’s upcoming annual meeting. The Liberal Party is small, but it can tip the balance in Parliament and thus can’t be dismissed. Political commentators including Sverre Strandhagen in newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) noted that Grande has been struggling as Liberal leader for nine years, leaving many to wonder how probable it will be for the Liberals to attract new voters as long as she stays at the helm.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund