‘We agree we can form a government’

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Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre and Center Party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum could finally walk out of a hotel north of Oslo and announce Friday afternoon that they’d agreed on a government platform. “Our message is that we are ready to form a new goverment next Thursday,” Støre told reporters.

Prime Minister-elect Jonas Gahr Støre (left) of the Labour Party and Center Party leader Tryge Slagsvold Vedum could finally announce Friday afternoon that they can agree on a new government platform. Their new left-center government coalition is due to take over late next week. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

“We have finished many days and many hours of work,” Støre said, “and we agree we can form a government.” The tone between the 61-year-old Støre and the 42-year old Vedum seemed relaxed.

Together they repeated lots of their campaign slogans, with both claiming that “we agree it’s ordinary folks’ turn, that we’ll reduce social differences over the whole country, that we’ll secure jobs…” Støre noted that “we will meet the climate crisis actively,” without detailing how they’ll do that, since both have no intention of reining in Norway’s powerful oil and gas industry. There’s just too much money at stake to do that.

“We still have some quality checking to do,” Støre added, but he signaled a busy and important week ahead, with the formal opening of Parliament on Monday and presentation of the current Conservative government’s state budget for next year (“We respect that,” Støre said) on Tuesday.

Vedum said the results of the two parties’ negotiations will be presented on Wednesday. Current Prime Minister Erna Solberg and her government will then be expected to resign, enabling Støre and Vedum to present their new government and its platform on Thursday, in time for the weekly Council of State with King Harald V at the Royal Palace on Friday.

Then Støre and Vedum can march out on the palace grounds with their new line-up of government ministers, the identities of which remain unclear. Speculation is already flying over who’ll take over the various ministerial posts, of which Labour will likely hold twice as many as Center, since it won twice the number of votes (26.3 percent compared to Center’s 13.5 percent).

They will have a minority government, since the Socialist Left Party (SV) pulled out of government talks last week. That means their left-center coalition will need support from other parties, even the opposition, in order to get legislation passed. Neither Støre nor Vedum seemed overly concerned about that.

“We stand together on this project,” Støre told reporters. “In some areas we have different views, we look at things differently, but then we find common ground.” Both Støre and Vedum were confident their own parties will accept their prospective platform.

They’ve revealed some progress along the way, promising, for example, a “more active” state role in business and industry. The idea is to support industry, perhaps providing funding for new climate-friendly ventures, while also making demands for results. At the same time the state may start using the clout it has through its ownership stakes in various companies. State ownership may even be strengthened in some firms.

They’ve also disagreed on lots of issues, like whether a university in Nesna should remain closed, whether Ullevål Hospital in Oslo should be split up and moved, whether Air Force activity should be moved back to Andøya in Northern Norway and whether the huge, newly merged county called Viken should be split up again. There’s also disagreement over how many wolves and other predators should be shot to protect open grazing of sheep.

“The political aspects have been the most important, and it’s become a good foundation for how Norway will be run over the next four years,” Vedum said. “It’s been a team-building process.” More details about the new team will be confirmed next week.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund