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What happens if Norway's PM steps down? No one seems to know.

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What happens if Norway's PM steps down? No one seems to know.
If PM Erna Solberg demands a vote of confidence, it could be her downfall. Photo: Cornelius Poppe / NTB scanpix
09:47 CET+01:00
If Prime Minister Erna Solberg is forced to abandon her post because she cannot muster support for her government's budget, the alternative options for governing Norway are incredibly vague.
Budget negotiations have broken down, and the Conservative and Progress Party coalition government will be thrown into a full-blown crisis if the Liberals, Christian Democrats or other parties don't sign on to the budget and save Solberg in the eleventh hour.
 
One place the PM cannot turn for help is with the Centre Party. 
 
“This is budget chaos that the government and its two support parties must solve themselves. Centre will not step in and save the government,” party leader Mari Arnstad told NTB.
 
Solberg may need to demand a vote of confidence on Monday, which means that the government will either be toppled if it cannot gain support for the budget, or that it will continue without a majority. If the latter is the case, parliamentary president Olemic Thommessen is expected to initiate the issuance of a limited management authority to the government.
 
“This authorization must be adopted by a majority in parliament,” Thommessen said.
 
Who would take over?
 
But what will replace Solberg's government if it doesn't survive? A pure Conservative government? A coalition with the Conservatives, Liberals and Christian Democrats? Or a government run by current opposition party Labour?
 
Professor and Norwegian political expert Frank Aarebrot told NTB that the “most likely” scenario is that the Conservatives will govern alone without its current coalition partners in the anti-immigration Progress Party. 
 
“Then the prime minister will at least no longer have to negotiate with the finance minister [Siv Jensen of Progress, ed.].  There is a greater consensus in Norwegian politics to the left of the Conservatives than to the right of them,” he said. 
 
Another option is that the Liberals, Christian Democrats and the Conservatives will form a temporary coalition government.
 
“I think we can eliminate this scenario because Progress has said so clearly earlier that it does not want to support a government it is not a part of,” elections researcher Bernt Aardal told VG.
 
He added that parliament's right-of-centre majority would mean that a new centre-right government would face the same problems as Solberg's current coalition.
 
Will Labour take the reins?
 
If it the right-of-centre majority fails to form a government, the ball will end up in Labour leader Jonas Gahr Støre's court. Although he wouldn't be eager to take over power with parliamentary majority against him, he has repeatedly been asked if he is ready to do so.
 
"Labour is ready to take over, and we'll do that after winning an election,” Støre said.
 
Aardal said that Labour “has very little to gain by taking over now, a year before the election”.
 
But a Labour take-over would require not only the support of allied parties Centre and the Socialist Left Party, it would also need the Christian Democrats and the Conservatives if it were to gain parliamentary support for its agenda. This scenario seems unlikely.
 
Thommessen confirmed that Solberg on Monday is quite likely to suggest that she will resign if she does not get a majority to support her budget.
 
“That is calling for a vote of confidence. Quite literally she is heralding her departure. If the confidence vote does not pass, it will happen quite immediately. Then we have a government crisis,” he said.
 
In that scenario, Thommessen, commissioned by the king, will then start talks with parliament with the aim of forming a new government. He declined to say which party he would call upon first. 
 
“I will not speculate on that,” he said. 
 
The Norwegian constitution does not allow for early elections, with the next legislative vote scheduled for September 11, 2017.
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