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Friday, June 21, 2024

Solberg isn’t offering to quit

Former Prime Minister Erna Solberg, caught in an ongoing political drama involving her husband’s stock trading, still wants to hang on to her post as leader of Norway’s Conservative Party, and return as prime minister in 2025. She put her future in the hands of the party, and voters, on Thursday after a week of intense political and media pressure.

Former Prime Minister Erna Solberg agreed to meet with individual media to answer more questions on Thursday, like here with Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). PHOTO: NRK screen grab

She broke five days of silence since her tearful press conference last Friday, at which she claimed her husband had lied to her about the extent of his stock trading and how some of it landed her in conflicts of interest while she was prime minister from 2013 to 2021. Instead of holding another press conference, though, she agreed to meet various media outlets for individual sessions of questioning conducted at her own party’s headquarters in downtown Oslo.

Solberg made it clear that she isn’t going to voluntarily resign as leader of the Conservatives and its prime minister candidate, despite rising calls that she should. “That’s up to Høyre (Norway’s Conservative Party) to decide,” she said in her session with Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “I also believe that we shouldn’t make hasty decisions in difficult times.”

Nor does she intend to go out on leave “right now” but perhaps later. She admitted that it “would be difficult” for her to carry on as usual for the party and as head of the opposition in Parliament if the Norwegian police’s economic crime unit Økokrim launches an investigation. She also said it would be difficult to function as party leader if any charges are filed, for example into suspicions of insider trading. The Parliament itself, meanwhile, has already asked for a written account of the situation from her, and its disciplinary committee has called her in to a hearing on a rash of conflicts of interest involving former and current members of government.

Solberg acknowledged that she’s ultimately responsible for the conflicts of interest that occurred after she’d failed to monitor her husband Sindre Finnes’ extensive trading and profiteering on various Norwegian companies that can be affected by government policy. He let her down by trading behind her back, she repeated, even though he’d been warned against investing in individual companies, “but I believe very clearly that I was responsible. He can’t be active in the stock market in the future if I become prime minister again.”

She repeated how he had apologized for violating her trust and for the trouble he put her in. He has also denied being involved in any illegal insider trading. She denied she was blaming him to save her own political career, stressing that she was responsible for not checking into his activities. She opted instead to simply accept his claims that he was not involved in problematic stock trading. “I have believed my husband, which you do in a marriage,” she said, adding that “time will tell whether we manage to build up a good life together again.”

Officials at Økokrim, meanwhile, have confirmed they’re evaluating whether to open an investigation into Sindre Finnes’ stock trading, on which he earned NOK 1.8 million while his wife was prime minister. A decision is due later this fall. Berglund



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