Analysis: How the 2021 general election result could change Norway

Monday's Norwegian election brought eight years of centre-right government to an end. But what do the results mean for Norway, and how could they change the country? 

Analysis: How the 2021 general election result could change Norway
Støre is facing weeks of tricky negotiations. Photo by Erlend C. L. Birkeland/Arbeidpartiet on Flickr.

The votes have been counted, and the dust is starting to settle in Norway as the curtains close on eight years of centre-right rule led by Erna Solberg’s Conservative Party. Labour leader Jonas Gahr Støre will likely be Norway’s next prime minister, signalling a shift from right-of-centre to centre-left politics. 

The writing had been on the wall for Solberg and her coalition partners for a while, and the ousted PM herself admitted last night at an election event that the Conservative Party would have needed a miracle to stay in power. 

Her confession at the event, where she also thanked supporters and said she was proud of what her government achieved in office, came shortly after she reportedly conceded defeat to Støre and rang him to congratulate him on the night’s results. 

But what will this new government mean for Norway? Will it be a seismic shift or more of the same? 

Støre has set his sights on reducing inequality in Norway and, among other things, the Labour leader has promised to cut taxes for those on middle-to-low incomes and raise them for those who earn more than 750,000 kroner per year. 

However, residents shouldn’t be expecting a massive change to the status quo, according to Kjersti Haugland, chief economist at financial institution at DNB Markets. 

“There will be some tax increases, for example, and there will be a different set of priorities, but the total size of the public budget will not be substantially different from if the current government were to remain in place,” Haugland explained to Reuters.

What Støre will be able to change, chop and achieve will depend on how much he can fund his policies without dipping into Norway’s oil fund too much. 

“It will be an exciting exercise to stay within the national budget without increasing the use of oil money,” Elisabeth Holvik, chief economist at Sparebank 1, told financial news site Dagens Næringsliv

READ ALSO: What the election win for Norway’s left wing coalition could mean for foreign residents

The biggest changes to life in Norway might not come from what has been, historically, Norway’s biggest party. Instead, the significant changes may be pushed forward by the smaller parties expected to join Labour in government. 

Of the three parties expected to be in government, the Socialist Left Party is the most committed to cleaning up Norway’s oil industry, cutting taxes for those on low incomes and increasing taxes on businesses and wealthy individuals. This contrasts with Støre’s more measured approach to those key policy areas. 

On the other hand, the Eurosceptic agrarian Centre Party has said it wants out of the European Economic Area or EEA, and wants to continue oil drilling while only aiming to make the country’s oil sector climate neutral by 2040. 

READ MORE: Norwegian election: What foreign residents should know about the Centre Party’s election promises

This presents itself as a massive challenge for Støre, who has a delicate balancing act to maintain during what will surely be incredibly thorny negotiations to navigate with two coalition partners who have promised that they wouldn’t be pushovers in talks and are threatening to pull his centre-left policies in different directions. 

Magnus Takvam, a political commentator with public broadcaster NRK, also said this will be a massive test for Støre. 

“Now he faces his biggest challenge so far as a political leader: To unite the three red-green parties into a joint government declaration and cooperation,” Takvam wrote for NRK after it became clear Støre would secure an election victory. 

How this coalition will change Norway will depend heavily on how well Støre can get the three parties to sing from the same hymn sheet. 

Environmental parties fall flat in ‘climate election’ 

The election in Norway was dubbed by various media outlets both in the country and internationally as the ‘climate election’. The initial results indicate that the election failed to live up to this billing. 

This is because the parties with the policies most focused on cutting the carbon emissions of Norway, Western Europe’s largest oil producer, underperformed compared to the polls. 

Compared to public broadcaster NRK’s pre-election poll, the Green Party, Liberal Party, and Socialist Left Party underperformed by between 0.4 and 1.4 percentage points when it came to election night. 

While this may not seem significant at first glance, it had a major impact on the Green Party, who lost out on valuable levelling seats due to falling below the four percent election threshold in Norway. 

READ ALSO: Norwegian election: Which parties could hit the ‘sperregrense’ jackpot?

The influence and power the Greens could have wielded in parliament were greatly diminished by missing out on the levelling seats. 

Lars Nehru Sand, a political commentator with NRK, argued that the environmentalist party fell flat in the election for three reasons. 

“The Greens failed to break the threshold for three reasons. They can best be described as attraction, rhetoric, and tactics, with the party directly responsible for the last two. 

The Greens are failing to attract new voters and members because with the climate more of a key policy area for voters than in the past, the Greens fail to stand out as more mainstream parties begin to adopt environmental pledges, according to Sand.

The analyst also argued that the party’s rhetoric and messaging could be as much of a weakness to its cause as it is a strength. 

And finally, its ultimatum to end all oil exploration by 2035 meant it failed to make the party an appealing option to voters and coalition partners alike. 

Anders Todal Jenssen, a professor of political science at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, offered NRK an alternative view as to why the climate election failed to live up to its billing. 

He argued that 2021 was far from Norway’s first environmental election. 

“When you hear young people talk about environmental policy, you get the impression of something that happened in the last year. But the first major environmental election in Norway was in 1973, and then we had a major environmental election in 1989,” he said. 

“It is a story that has repeated itself, and it means that many voters now know the arguments from the environmental side and the counterarguments to them very well. And then it does not get the same explosive power as when many people think it is a completely new issue,” he explained to NRK. 

Both of these explanations indicate that while elections centred around environmental issues are nothing new in Norway, parties aren’t yet able to get voters to pull the plug on the oil sector, which directly employ’s 160,000 people and makes up around 14 percent of the country’s GDP. 

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Air-con, ties and lights: How Europe plans to save energy and get through winter without blackouts

In the face of possible energy shortages due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, countries around Europe are taking action to cut their energy use and ensure that the lights remain on this winter. Here's a look at some of the rules and recommendations that governments are introducing.

Air-con, ties and lights: How Europe plans to save energy and get through winter without blackouts

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ensuing sanctions has seen energy prices soar, while the Russian leader is also threatening to cut off gas supplies to the west in retaliation for the sanctions.

All this means that countries around Europe face a difficult winter and the prospect of energy shortages – so many are already taking action to stockpile gas and cut energy usage.

Here’s a roundup of what actions are being taken. 


Heavily dependant on Russian gas, Germany is already feeling the effects of the energy squeeze, with many households and businesses turning down the thermostat or dimming the lights as gas storage facilities are being filled at a slower pace.

RulesEarly in July, Germany’s lower house of parliament or Bundestag passed a plan to turn off the hot water in its offices and keep the air temperature no higher than 20C in the winter. This limit is merely recommended for households.

However homeowners will not be allowed to heat private pools with gas “this winter”, according to government plans, while a regulation requiring minimum temperatures in rented homes is expected to be suspended “so that tenants who want to save energy and turn down the heating are allowed to do so”.

As well as national rules, many German cities have also adopted their own energy-savings plans.

The Bavarian city of Augsburg, for example, has turned off its fountains, dimmed the facades of public buildings at night and is debating switching off some under-used traffic lights – and a housing cooperative in Dresden made national headlines when it announced it would limit hot water to certain times of day.

With certain exceptions, public buildings in Berlin will not have heating from April to the end of September each year, with room temperatures limited to a maximum of 20C for the rest of the year. In areas such as warehouses, technical rooms, corridors, the maximum will range from 10 to 15C.

Private enterprise has been getting in on the act too – Vonovia, Germany’s largest property group, plans to limit the temperature in its 350,000 homes to a maximum of 17C at night.

The head of consumer chemicals group Henkel has said that work-from-home practices may be reintroduced, while chemicals giant BASF has raised the possibility of putting its employees on furlough.

Recommendations – Economy Minister Robert Habeck has made headlines for extolling the virtues of shorter, colder showers.


France has an ambitious plan to cut its energy usage by 10 percent within two years and a government plan for sobriété énergétique (energy sobriety) is expected by September.

In the meantime, some rules have already been put in place while there are also some official recommendations. The general principle is that changes will be obligatory for government buildings and businesses, but voluntary for private households. 

Rules – In 2013, a law obliging businesses to switch off outside lights by 1am came into force. That deadline may be brought forward and towns and villages may have to switch off streetlights earlier – some areas have already taken this decision.

Shops that have air conditioning may not leave their doors open, so that less energy is lost.

Limits have been suggested for heating and air conditioning – keep heating to a maximum of 19C and air con to a minimum of 26C at the height of summer. The Prime Minister says she ‘expects’ government buildings to show an example and adhere to these, but they are voluntary for households.

Meanwhile, the heads of large supermarket chains in France have made a voluntary agreement for all stores to employ energy-saving techniques, such as turning off electric signs at closing times, reducing light usage, and managing store temperatures, from October 15th this year. They will also cut lighting by half before opening time, and by 30 percent during “critical consumption periods”.

Additionally, they will “cut off air renewal at night” and “lower the temperature in outlets to 17C this autumn and winter, if requested by a regulatory authority”.

Recommendations – The government has urged individuals to adopt energy-saving practices – by switching off wifi routers when on holiday, turning off lights, unplugging electric appliances when not in use, and lowering the air-con.

France’s energy transition minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher has urged people to keep heating to a maximum of 19C and air con to a minimum of 26C at the height of summer.


Spain has introduced perhaps the most wide-ranging set of rules in its new energy-saving bill, which comes into force on August 10th.

Public buildings as well as shops, restaurants, cafés, supermarkets, transport hubs and cultural spaces must:

  • Set heating and cooling temperatures to limits of 19C and 27C respectively;
  • Install doors that automatically close by September 30th to prevent energy waste, as can happen with regular doors that are left open;
  • Lights in shop windows must be turned off by 10pm;
  • Posters must be put up to explain the energy saving measures in every building or establishment, and thermometers must be displayed to show the temperature and humidity of the room.

READ ALSO: Is it realistic for Spain to set the air con limit at 27C during summer?

Recommendations – the above rules do not apply to private homes, but it is recommended to follow the heating and cooling limits.

Meanwhile, working from home is recommended for large companies and public administration buildings to help “save on the displacement and thermal consumption of buildings”, Spain’s Minister for Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera said.

And have you thought about your outfit? Here’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez explaining why he’s ditching his tie to stay a little bit cooler.


Back in April the Italian government approved limits on the use of air conditioning in public offices and schools from May 1st, to save energy and wean itself off reliance on Russian gas imports.

At the time Ministers said that Italy would be able to end its reliance on Russian gas within 18 months, after previously giving a timeframe of at least two years.

Rules – In public buildings, energy use will be measured in individual rooms of each building – the temperature must not exceed 19C in winter and cannot be any lower than 27C in summer, with a margin of tolerance of two degrees – meaning the lowest allowed temperature is actually 25C.

Fines for non-compliance with the rules are said to range from €500 to €3,000. The measure does not currently apply to clinics, hospitals and nursing homes.

Italy has long had rules in place limiting the usage of heating in homes and public buildings during winter. Northern and mountainous areas are allowed to switch on the heat in October, while some parts of the south can’t turn up the dial until December.

Even then, there are limits on how long you’re allowed to keep the central heating on each day, ranging from six hours in the warmest parts of the country to 14 hours in chillier regions.

And there are rules on maximum temperatures – private homes, offices and schools should not be heated to more than 20C, with a 2C tolerance. Meanwhile factories and workshops should generally be kept at 18C.


The Austrian government has said it will work on measures to encourage energy saving among households and businesses while putting a cap on electricity prices.

The aim is to “support the Austrian population to ensure unaffordable energy supply for a certain basic need”, according to a government statement. 

The government didn’t give details on the price cap but said that conditions would be developed by the end of August.


Sweden has announced no new measures in response to the energy crisis, but already has certain limits in place. 

Many Swedish apartment buildings and housing cooperatives have a strict maximum heating limit of 21C indoors and in some buildings radiators have a limiter on them so they cannot be turned too high.

In Denmark, too, the government has introduced no specific new measures.


In common with other countries, Switzerland is at risk of a gas shortage this winter and the government has warned that restrictions on consumption during the coldest months cannot be excluded.

Nearly half of its annual supply is of Russian origin. “We are not an island, so the war in Ukraine and the global energy crisis also affect Switzerland,” Energy Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said at the end of June. “In this context, there is no certainty about what awaits us.”

The possibility that Swiss households will have to turn down the thermostat this winter is very real. 

In the event of an actual shortage, “consumption restrictions may be ordered, for example restrictions on the heating of unoccupied buildings. The switching to biofuel could be imposed by ordinance”, Economy Minister Guy Parmelin has said.

If shortages persist, a quota system would be implemented – with households and essential services, such as hospitals, among the last to be affected.

But Parmelin insisted, “the role of the State is to guarantee a good supply of gas and electricity to the country. We want at all costs to avoid a disruption in supply, which would have a strong impact on businesses and  would then lead to an economic crisis”.


Less reliant on Russian gas because of its own gas reserves, the UK is currently less worried about supply than price – soaring utility bills may force many households into poverty this winter, campaigners have warned.

Households in the UK will start receiving a discount worth a total £400 (€478) off their energy bills from October, the British government has said, with the support package rises to £1,200 (€1,430) for the poorest households.

A recent report by National Grid said there was little chance of the lights going out in the UK this winter – though experts have warned that a severe cold spell could prompt action, such as shutdowns of non-critical factory operations, to ensure homes can be heated.