Solberg unseated as Norway’s left-wing opposition comes out on top

Solberg unseated as Norway's left-wing opposition comes out on top
Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Store and Erna Solberg. Photo: Flickr/ Arbeiderpartiet
Norway's left-wing opposition headed by Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Store won Monday's general election after a campaign dominated by questions about the future of the key oil industry in Western Europe's largest producer.

The five opposition parties won 100 of the 169 seats in parliament, enough to unseat the centre-right coalition headed by Conservative Erna Solberg, according to results with 99.7 percent of all votes counted.

More than 42 percent of the electorate voted in advance.

Støre spoke to jubilant Labour supporters at the party’s election night event and said years of patience have paid off. 

“We have waited, we have hoped and worked so hard, and now we can finally say, we did it,” Støre said at the event. 

Labour were able to secure their pre-election dream majority consisting of themselves and the Socialist Left Party and Centre Party. 

“Today folks, we are celebrating a change,” he said of Labour’s return to government after eight years in opposition. 

Støre will be Norway’s 36th prime minister since 1873. 

The Labour Party and Støre, have secured an absolute majority of 89 seats in parliament with its preferred allies, the Centre Party and the Socialist Left Party.

If the three parties are able to form a coalition in the coming weeks it would eliminate the need to rely on the support of the two other opposition parties, the Greens and the communist Red Party.

‘The Conservative government’s work is finished’

Just after 11pm last night Prime Minister Erna Solberg conceded defeat.

“The Conservative government’s work is finished for this time around,” Solberg, who has governed since 2013, told supporters. “I want to congratulate Jonas Gahr Støre, who now seems to have a clear majority for a change of government.”

Solberg thanked her supporters and said she was proud of the government’s achievements as eight years of centre-right rule draws to a close.

“If we now look at Norway in the final phase of the coronavirus pandemic, employment is back where it was before the coronavirus,” the outgoing PM said. “We have also encountered major challenges on our watch. The migrant crisis, the fall in oil prices, the coronavirus pandemic,” she added.

‘Code red’

The Greens had said they would only support a left-wing government if it vowed an immediate end to oil exploration in Norway, Western Europe’s biggest oil producer.

Støre has rejected that ultimatum, not that it matters as Støre’s preferred coalition secured a majority and the Greens fell below the four percent election threshold.

A 61-year-old who campaigned against social inequality, Store has, like the Conservatives, called for a gradual transition away from the oil economy.

The August “code red for humanity” report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put the issue at the top of the agenda for the election campaign and forced the country to reflect on the oil that has made it immensely rich.

The report energised those who want to get rid of oil, both on the left and, to a lesser extent, the right.

The oil sector accounts for 14 percent of Norway’s gross domestic product, as well as 40 percent of its exports and 160,000 direct jobs.

In addition, the cash cow has helped the country of 5.4 million people amass the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund, today worth close to 12 trillion kroner (almost 1.2 trillion euros, $1.4 trillion).

A former minister in the governments of Jens Stoltenberg between 2005 and 2013, Store is now expected to begin negotiations with the Centre, which primarily defends the interests of its rural base, and the Socialist Left Party, which is a strong advocate for environmental issues.

The trio, which already governed together in Stoltenberg’s coalitions, often have diverging positions, notably on the pace at which to exit the oil industry.

The Centrists have also said they would not form a coalition with the Socialist Left Party.

“I want a society that is more fair, with opportunities for all, and where we try to put everyone to work. That’s the number one priority,” Støre said Monday, also calling for a “fair climate policy”.

“We will take all the time we need to talk to the other parties,” he said just before the first projections were released.


Member comments

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.