With 95.1 percent of votes counted, the conservative parties have 1,408,592 votes, while the red-green alliance has gained 1,416,085, reports broadcaster NRK.
Provided the Green Party – which says it is not loyal to either bloc, but will refuse to work with the populist Progress Party – is included in the red-green numbers, the totals show a narrow win for that side of the aisle in terms of raw voting numbers.
But Norway's mandate system gave Prime Minister Erna Solberg an election victory by 89 seats to 80 on Monday night.
Votes in rural regions such as Finnmark or Sogn og Fjordane can carry more weight in the final calculation than those from Oslo, with the number of seats awarded in each region (fylke) used to decide parliamentary majority.
“The effect of dropping under the threshold [for increased representation, ed.] or between a few and one district mandates can be huge,” Anders Todal Jenssen, professor of political science at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, told NRK.
The Centre Party, Socialist Left, Green Party and Red Party all increased their vote share relative to 2013.
If two of these parties effectively combined into one, the number of votes given to them could result in more seats or mandates, Jenssen said.
“If we think, hypothetically, that the Greens and Reds had combined, they would have a better total of mandates,” he said.
The Green and Red parties each gained one seat in the parliament.
Jenssen added that even in this hypothetical scenario, a red-green parliamentary majority would not have been certain.
The mismatch between popular votes and election winning bloc is not uncommon. In both 2005 and 2009, the conservative parties won the popular vote but lost the election, writes NRK.
“Sometimes one side benefits from the Norwegian election system, sometimes the other does. So that means at least there is not a systematic bias involved,” Jenssen said to the broadcaster.
The professor added it was crucial that the election system was considered fair by voters, and that it should be well understood.
“And on that point, our election system is perhaps not the best,” he said.