Stoltenberg surges as stablemates stumble

Norway’s Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, remains far more popular than his main rivals, but underperforming coalition partners could cost him his post, a new poll has shown.

Stoltenberg surges as stablemates stumble
Photo: Kristian Skårdalsmo/Scanpix

Some 51.5 percent of voters surveyed named the Labour Party leader as their first choice to head the next government, according to a poll conducted by Norstat at the beginning of January.

Stoltenberg’s commanding lead represented a 3.3 point month-on-month increase for the incumbent, national broadcaster NRK reports.

Conservative Party leader Erna Solberg slipped 2.9 points to 33.7 percent, while Siv Jensen of the Progress Party fell back 0.8 points to 6.7 percent.

Of the 721 respondents polled, 8.5 percent said they didn’t know who they would like to see as Prime Minister after next year’s general election.

The Labour Party also ruled the roost in a poll of party preferences, as a 2.8-point rise put them well out in the lead with 34.8 percent.

The survey made decidedly less cheery reading for Stoltenberg’s coalition partners in the Socialist Left Party. Outgoing leader Kristin Halvorsen saw support for her party drop to 3.5 percent, below the 4-percent threshold for parliamentary representation.

Bård Vegar Solhjell, who heads the party’s parliamentary group, regretted the plunge in support, believing he and his colleagues “should be getting greater recognition” for pushing through their policies in government.

The Liberal Party too slipped below the threshold, scoring 3.7 percent, 1.9 points below the party’s December tally.

Elsewhere, the Conservatives climbed 0.7 points to 28.1 percent, while the Progress Party shed 1.1 points for a total of 15.8 percent.

The Christian Democratic Party jumped 1.4 points to 6.1 percent, while the Centre Party enjoyed the support of just 4.9 percent of respondents, down 1.3 points.

Converted into seats, the poor showing for the Socialist Left and Centre parties would open the door for a Conservative-led government if an election were to be held this month, with the Red-Green parties securing 74 seats to the opposition’s 95.

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Russia on agenda at Nordic Nato discussions

Norwegian Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg is in Stockholm to meet Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and defence officials from across the Nordics, with Russian aggression in the region set to be a key talking point.

Russia on agenda at Nordic Nato discussions
Former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg at the Nato Parliamentary Assembly in Stavanger in October. Photo: Carina Johansen/NTB scanpix

Former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg is visiting Sweden for the first time since becoming Nato’s new Secretary General last year, taking over from fellow Scandinavian, Denmark’s Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

The 56-year-old diplomat who served as Norway's Prime Minister from 2005 to 2013 with the Labour Party has promised to visit all Nato member states during his term, as well as non-members such as Sweden which have close ties to the intergovernmental military alliance.

His trip coincides with a regular two-day meeting of the Nordic defence cooperation group, Nordefco, attended by representatives from Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland and Denmark as well as partners from the Baltic states. Polish and UK officials have also been invited to the talks.

Sweden will hand over the rotating presidency of Nordefco to Denmark, following the discussions.

Russia’s presence in the the Nordics is expected to be a key focus of their debates, following continued jitters surrounding recent intrusions from the eastern country.

In October 2014, a foreign submarine – suspected to be from Russia, although this was never confirmed – was spotted in Swedish waters just outside Stockholm. A number of Russian planes have also been spotted in or close to Swedish and Danish airspace over the past year. Both Swedish and Danish Intelligence services have reported that Russia is one of the biggest threats in the region.

The visit from the new Nato chief also comes as public support for Sweden joining the organization is growing, according to recent polls. 

In September, 41 percent of Swedes said they thought their country should join Nato while 39 percent remained against it. A similar survey in May stated that just 31 percent of respondents were in favour of Nato membership.

Sweden's ruling centre-left coalition – made up of the Social Democrats and the Green Party – is historically against Nato membership. However, there have been indications in the past year that the Scandinavian nation is moving closer to joining the defence alliance.

In April, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland announced far-reaching plans to extend their military cooperation. Two months ago, Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet suggested that Sweden could get involved with a UK-led Nato-linked force that could be deployed in the event of war in the Baltics, although this was later denied by Sweden’s Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist.