The Norwegian government has long tried to prepare itself for either outcome of the election in the US, a country consistently referred to as Norway’s “closest ally.” Incumbent US President Donald Trump’s claim early Wednesday that the election was subject to “fraud” and that vote-counting should be stopped, however, stunned many Members of Parliament and prompted a few to urge reconsideration of “closest ally” status.
Both Prime Minister Erna Solberg of the Conservative Party and her main rival, Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre were careful about commenting on the election thriller, since either may end up needing to deal with Trump for another four years. Solberg withheld any comment until election results became more clear.
Støre, however, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Wednesday morning that the extremely tight race, which remained too close to call half-a-day after polls closed, reflected “a deeply divided country” regardless of the election outcome.
“There are two candidates with different offers that split the country right down the middle,” Støre, a former foreign minister, told NRK. “It will be a tough job to unite the country after this.” He also said it was “unheard of” for an American president to bring the country’s election process into doubt.
The divided states of America
Democratic challenger Joe Biden has stressed the need to re-unite the currently divided states of America, while Trump seems to thrive on the polarization that has built up during this last four years as president. Norway’s current foreign minister, Ine Eriksen Søreide, said she’d expected a close race and hopes both candidates will eventually “contribute towards reconciliation after an election campaign that has been quite tense and unusual, and plagued by how the US is hard-hit by the pandemic.”
Søreide refrained from direct comment on Trump’s allegations in the middle of the night that he “probably already had won” the US election, but results were stymied by what he considers wrongful counting of mailed-in ballots after polls closed. He called that “fraud” and declared that he was sending lawyers to the US Supreme Court to stop the ballot count. Trump’s remarks outraged many, and set off more charges that he was undermining the US’ own democratic institutions.
“The US has a (more than) 200-year history of carrying out democratic elections,” Søreide, in her most calm and self-assured manner, told NRK. “I’m confident that (the US’) institutions, also this time, will carry this out.”
Trump an ‘undemocratic bully’
Government minister Guri Melby, leader of Norway’s Liberal Party, said she hopes “we’ll get politicians in the White House and the Senate who, to a larger degree, will be able to build bridges and cooperate.” She thinks the US needs leaders who will narrow the divide, instead of expanding it.
Audun Lysbakken, leader of Norway’s Socialist Left party (SV) and a former government minister himself, was much tougher in his assessment, calling Trump “an undemocratic bully.”
“These years with Trump, and also the prospect that he may be re-elected, is a clear sign that we need to re-think things in Norway,” Lysbakken told NRK. “We can’t be so dependent on the US as we are today.”
Bjørnar Moxnes, a Member of Parliament for the Reds party, agreed. “We need to tear ourselves loose from Trump’s USA,” Moxnes said. “We should do that regardless of who wins the election.”
That’s highly unlikely, especially now when Norway has closer defense ties with the US than ever before and will soon harbour US nuclear submarines. Støre of the Labour Party, though, noted that “Trump’s views on international cooperation are in great contrast to Norway’s traditional views.”
Støre also warned that no one knows how Trump will behave in a second term. His track record is not encouraging, after Trump scrapped may of the international agreements that Norway and many other countries in the world value highly, not least the UN climate agreement. Norway also objected when Trump dumped support for the World Health Organization in the midst of the Corona crisis, and also when Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear agreement, which Norway had helped negotiate.