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Saturday, December 2, 2023

New Conservative governments settle in all over Norway

Norway’s capital is just one of many cities around the country where Conservative governments are settling in this week after last month’s election. Several of Norway’s biggest cities are now under right-wing rule after years of Labour dominance, and hope they won’t derail.

Bus- and vehicular traffic rolls past and over the historic Bryggen area of Bergen every day, but many remain firmly opposed to a tram line being built here. A decision had been made to move forward with the project, but now it’s back in political play. PHOTO: NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

The threat of derailment seems particularly high, quite literally, in Bergen, where the west coast city’s popular but embattled tram system remains at the eye of a storm. City politicians battled for years over whether the line should run over the city’s historic wharf area known as Bryggen, or whether the city should build an expensive tunnel project for it in the mountain behind Bryggen.

Bybanen stretches from the airport at Flesland, south of Bergen, to the city center, and expansion remains in the works. PHOTO: NewsinEnglish.no/Morten Møst

A decision was finally made to build the tram line over Bryggen and the Conservatives’ Christine Meyer, who’s taking over as city government leader by a slim majority, promised during the campaign that she wouldn’t reopen the issue. Government negotiations forced her, though, into negotiations to do just that, and take another look at building a tunnel instead.

“This issue has plagued Bergen for more than 10 years,” Eirin Eikefjord, commentator for local newspaper Bergens Tidende, told Dagsavisen recently. Now it’s raising uncertainty again, but Meyer and Bergen’s new Conservative mayor Marit Warncke, are taking over after weeks of more political chaos that also sprung up after after a dramatic recount of ballots. That’s what changed some mandates and forced Meyer into cooperation with some tiny parties opposed to Bybanen over Bergen.

In Trondheim, meanwhile, Kent Ranum will become the first Conservative mayor in 20 years. His party negotiated a political agreement with the Greens, the Liberals, the Center Party, the Christian Democrats and the Pensionist Party, despite the threats of an unwieldy coalition.

“There is a political will to change Trondheim politics, they agree on that much,” commentator Oda Okkenhaug told Dagsavisen. “They’ll stretch themselves to get a functioning conservative-green cooperation, but I don’t think it will be easy.”

Former fisheries minister Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen, will have new fish to fry in his job as mayor of Bodø. PHOTO: NFD

The Conservative wave that ended eight years of a Labour-Greens-Socialist Left government in Oslo (which took seven weeks to get its own new Conservative-Liberal house in order) also swept over cities including Bodø in Northern Norway and Stavanger much farther south. Labour had held forth in Bodø for years but suddenly the Conservatives won 34.2 percent of the vote and former fisheries minister Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen is taking over as mayor.

Commentators noted there that the Conservatives haven’t seen such support in Bodø since the 1970s, and will now take over government power with both the non-socialist Liberal Party and the Progress Party. Bodø doesn’t face the uncertainty and potentially troublesome coalitions that have emerged in Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim. It’s been a long time, commentators noted, since one bloc gets such a clear majority.

The Conservatives have also won power in the southern cities of Kristiansand and in Stavanger, where the outgoing but popular former mayor Kari Nessa Nordtun has already resurfaced as a new minister in the Labour-Center national government. Norway’s oil capital will now have a new conservative city government coalition made up of the Conservatives, the Liberals, Progress, the Christian Democrats and the small Pensionist Party. Kristiansand will be run by a similar conservative coalition, but including the Center Party, which rules with Labour at the national level.

Labour did prevail in the northern city of Tromsø, where its popular mayor Gunnar Wilhelmsen is credited with securing the party the most important posts in the city government. Wilhelmsen reportedly told Norway’s unpopular Labour-Center coalition at the national level to stay away during the campaign, distancing himself from Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre but otherwise cooperating with the Socialist Left, Center, the Greens and the Reds. Wilhelmsen promised voters “safe steering and a steady course,” according to political commentator Maja Sojtaric, and won their votes. All local governments in Norway needed to be in place by this week.

NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

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