Solberg set to lead broad center-right coalition in Norway after today’s election


Erna Solberg, the longtime leader of Norway’s Conservative Party, will become Norway’s next prime minister after results from today’s Norwegian parliamentary election showed all four of Norway’s center-right parties winning enough seats to form an absolute majority in Norway’s Storting (parliament).norway

Prime minister Jen Stoltenberg has conceded defeat, and will resign shortly after presenting Norway’s next budget in mid-October.

The result’s a lot more complicated than that — for starters, Stoltenberg’s party, the center-left Arbeiderpartiet (Labour Party) actually won more votes than Solberg’s party, the center-right Høyre (literally the ‘Right’) — so much so that Labour will have around 55 seats to just 48 for the Conservatives.  It’s not an unexpected result because while polls earlier this summer showed the Conservatives leading Labour, support for Labour has increased as Norwegians focused on the campaign.  Moreover, Labour has emerged in every election since 1924 with more support and seats than Norway’s various opposition parties, and its long pedigree as the natural party of government means that it has a deeper wellspring of support among the Norwegian electorate.

Here’s the breakdown of voter support with nearly all the votes counted:

norway results

Here’s the projected allocation of seat in Norway’s new parliament:


But that wasn’t enough to pull off a victory for two reasons.  First, Labour’s support — around 30.9% — is smaller than the 35.4% it won in the September 2009 election, natural enough for a party that’s been in power for eight years and is seeking a third consecutive term.  Secondly, the two small parties that comprise the ‘red-green’ coalition that Stoltenberg heads, Sosialistisk Venstreparti (Socialist Left Party) and the Senterpartiet (Centre Party), did incredibly poorly, so the ‘red-green’ coalition is projected to win just a cumulative 72 seats in the 169-member Storting.

Meanwhile, Solberg’s Conservatives cannot govern by themselves, but must form an alliance among the four major center-right parties that will join parliament.  That includes the Kristelig Folkeparti (Christian Democratic Party), a moderately conservative party that led Norway’s last center-right government under prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik between 1997 and 2000 and again from 2001 to 2005, and it includes Venstre (literally, ‘the Left,’ but commonly known as the Liberal Party).  All three parties worked together in government between 2001 and 2005 and all three parties generally accept the fait accompli of the Norwegian social welfare state and Labour’s rules to stash much of Norway’s annual budget surplus in the country’s massive oil wealth fund.  The Conservatives, in particular, have spent the election arguing for slight changes to the status quo, such as lower business taxes and tweaks to Norway’s health care system, after a major rebranding exercise to grow beyond their base of Oslo business interests.

But the coalition must also include the more controversial Framskrittspartiet (Progress Party).  Most reports highlight that the party is relatively populist and anti-immigrant, and that it was the party of Norway’s Anders Behring Breivik, who was responsible for the deadliest killings in Norway’s history in twin attacks in 2011.  That’s all true, but the party’s roots are in the anti-tax movement of the 1970s, and its goal is a massive rupture from the status quo — it would claw back many of Norway’s social benefits, drastically reduce the role of government in Norwegian life, but it would also push to spend more of the Norwegian oil surplus (or return it in the form of lower taxes).   Continue reading Solberg set to lead broad center-right coalition in Norway after today’s election

Solberg favored to become prime minister as Norway votes today


In Norway, voters will decide today whether to deliver prime minister Jens Stoltenberg a third term in government.norway

Stoltenberg, in his eighth year of office, leads the center-left Arbeiderpartiet (Labour Party) that dominates Norway’s governing ‘red-green’ coalition.  But while the center-right Høyre (literally the ‘Right,’ or more commonly, the Conservative Party) consistently led polls as the most popular party throughout the summer, Labour has caught back up in the polls, and the two are neck-in-neck to determine which will win the most votes today.

But even if Labour wins the largest share of the vote (as it’s done in every election since 1927), the Conservatives remain heavily favored to form Norway’s next government because the center-right parties, taken together, far outpoll the center-left parties.  Labour’s two smaller allies, in particular, are faring poorly in polls.

That means that Conservative leader Erna Solberg (pictured above, left, with Stoltenberg, right) is predicted to become Norway’s next prime minister with the support of the Folkeparti (Christian Democratic Party) and the Venstre (the Liberal Party), but also the Framskrittspartiet (Progress Party), a far-right, populist anti-immigration, anti-tax, anti-social welfare party formed in the 1970s.  Solberg leads a party that’s undergone a major rebranding in recent years — Solberg, from western Norway, leads a relatively moderate center-right party that hopes to lower taxes but otherwise promises quite a bit of continuity with Stoltenberg’s policies.  With a base in Oslo, the Conservatives are very business-friendly, and are likely to continue both the fiscal prudence of the Stoltenberg government (which diverts much of Norway’s annual budget surplus into its oil fund) as well as the social welfare state that’s come to define Norwegian government.

Although the Progress Party is currently the second-largest party in Norway’s Storting (Parliament), it’s never been part of a government in Norwegian history.  So even though it’s likely to lose seats today, its leader Siv Jensen will have the votes to bring Solberg a broader right-wing majority — and to demand the finance portfolio, despite the fact that Progress has radically different views about Norway’s finances than Labour and the Conservatives.

If Labour holds on, it will be due to Labour’s historically strong political base in the Norwegian heartland and its get-out-the-vote efforts, but also due to hesitation over putting the Progress Party in power, not any hesitation about Solberg.

Norway, a country of just five million in Scandinavia, is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, with a GDP per capita of about $50,000 to $60,000, due in large part to Norway’s oil wealth.  Voters will elect all 169 members of the unicameral Storting on the basis of proportional representation by choosing candidates from among 19 multi-member districts.  The electoral threshold for entering parliament is 4% of the vote.  Although Norway has twice rejected joining the European Union (most recently in a 1994 referendum), it is a member of the European Economic Area, so like Iceland and Liechtenstein, it is a member of the European single market, even though it doesn’t have any input on policymaking as a European Union non-member.

For more of Suffragio‘s coverage on Norway’s parliamentary elections:

  • here’s a look at how Solberg and the Conservatives ended up such strong frontrunners in 2013;
  • here’s a look at why no one should count out Stoltenberg and Labour today; and
  • here’s a look at tensions among Norway’s center-right parties and why a broad center-right government is still more likely than a ‘grand coalition.’