Støre optimistic as coalition talks begin

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Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre will be eagerly heading for a hotel north of Oslo on Thursday with the Center- and Socialist Left (SV) party leaders. Both accepted his invitation to “exploratory talks” about forming a new left-center government, and Støre seems convinced “we share much more than that which divides us.”

These three men are still most likely to lead a new left-center government coalition after the September 13 election. From left: Socialist Left Party leader Audun Lysbakken, Center Party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum and Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

Together they’d hold a majority in Parliamentary. Støre, widely viewed as the “prime minister-elect” in Norway after last week’s national election, viewed it as a victory in itself that all three would meet with just a few deputies at the Hurdalsjøen Hotell in Hurdal.

It’s the same hotel where the current Conservatives-led government has hashed out budgets in recent years. Now Støre has a lot more on his agenda, with an eye to issuing a new Labour-led government platform in mid-October.

“I’ve had good conversations with Trygve Slagsvold Vedum (the Center Party leader) and Audun Lysbakken (SV’s leader) since Wednesday,” Støre could tell reporters on Monday. “I formally invited them to government deliberations and they accepted.”

Center’s Vedum has been playing hard to get for months, declaring since his party’s national meeting last spring that Center wanted to form a government only with Labour. His problem is that the two parties alone failed to secure a majority, with Labour winning 26.3 percent of the vote and Center just 13.6 percent. SV, with its 7.5 percent, would give them they clout they need to get their programs through Parliament.

Center and SV disagree on a wide variety of issues, however, from the future of the oil industry to preservation of wildlife in Norway. Many political commentators, however, have claimed that Center’s reluctance to govern with SV is mostly a matter of tactics. The three parties held government power from 2005 to 2013 and most think they can team up again.

Vedum remained coy on Tuesday, stressing that the three had only concluded that they “want an exploratory round in order to chart whether there’s a foundation” for actual government negotiations. None of the three would detail what actual issues they’ll discuss, or what will be the biggest obstacles. It’s widely expected they’re each already plotting which ministerial posts they want.

Støre was upbeat and didn’t think it had taken long at all to get all three around the table. “No, I think it’s happening quite on the mark,” Støre told news bureau NTB. He calls the Hurdal talks “an important mid-station on the way to negotiating a government platform.”

An optimistic Støre enjoyed enthusiastic applause at a meeting Tuesday of Labour’s national board, not least when he noted that Labour is now one of the largest social democratic parties in Europe. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that when the cheering settled down, Støre stressed how Labour also has “a lot in common with Center and SV” and thus a lot to build upon.

He presented six goals for a new left-center government: reduced social differences among Norwegians, major emissions cuts, getting more people into the workforce, boosting exports, providing security for elders and optimism in outlying areas.

“My message to friends in Center and SV is ‘let’s go in and see how we can do this together. We are the power in this process.'”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund