ANALYSIS: Why Norway’s Socialist Left party withdrew from government talks

The Socialist Left Party has walked away from talks over Norway’s next coalition government. Here’s what you need to know about why they ended discussions and what could happen next. 

Audun Lysbakken has walked away from government talks after failing to find an agreement with the leaders of the other parties, here's what's next for Norway.
Audun Lysbakken has walked away from government talks after failing to find an agreement with the leaders of the other parties, here's what's next for Norway. Photo by Arebidparteit on Flickr.

“We are now at a point that I hoped we would not get to. It is with great disappointment that we must acknowledge that in SV’s (Socialist Left Party) view there is no political basis for forming a red-green government,” Audun Lysbakken, leader of the Socialist Left Party, told reporters on Thursday evening. 

His announcement may have come as a shock to many as the Socialist Left Party, traditionally, has been Labour’s closest ally in and out of government. 

It was widely expected in the run-up to the election, and after the dust had settled, that a red-green coalition of Labour, the Centre Party and the Socialist Left Party would be Norway’s next government. 

But, Thursday’s announcement has left that in question.

Why did the Socialist Left Party pull out of discussions?

The parties had some key differences to settle if the three were to form a majority red-green government, and unfortunately, no middle ground or compromise could be found on several issues.

Lysbakken confirmed that the differences were political rather than personal.

“We have a good personal relationship, and we parted as friends,” Lysbakken said.

“All the issues we have raised in government negotiations are issues we will raise again in the Storting (parliament). We have not asked for any kind of agreement,” he added.

What did they disagree on? 

Oil and climate policy was one of the main points of contention and friction between the two parties. Lysbakken’s party want to halt oil exploration, while the other two parties don’t. 

“Our primary position is that we must stop oil exploration. Then we went in and saw if we could find reasonable restrictions where we can meet,” Lysbakken said. 

Labour leader Støre, speaking at a press conference, also said oil exploration was a sticking point for the talks.

“We must have activity in our industry to succeed with the green shift. And then our view is that without activity and an exploration activity and mapping activity, we will not get to the green shift. Putting it on hold will set us back. Industrial competence is the key to achieving our goals,” he said. 

However, oil exploration wasn’t the only issue, and Lysbakken felt that throughout talks, Labour and the Centre party were somewhat inflexible and uncompromising with their demands. 

“They were not willing to give enough to get a majority government. We wanted very clear Socialist Left policies, more impactful policy against climate, inequality and the environment,” Lysbakken explained. 

“All of these issues… Oil policy, emissions cuts, nature conservation, taxes, making welfare profit-free. These are all examples of areas where we have come up with proposals that we believe are important to be part of a government platform, but for which we have not been successful,” he elaborated. 

What’s next? 

Labour and the Centre Party have begun tentative negotiations on forming a coalition government. 

“The Center Party and the Labor Party have had meetings and agreed that we will start negotiations to form a government together,” Støre said Thursday night. 

Readers keen on Norwegian politics may have already realised that this would mean a minority government. 

This is because the Labour Party and Centre Party only have a combined 76 out of the 85 needed for a majority. 

This may make it harder for the two parties to get bills pushed through parliament. However, the new government will also be able to sound out the other parties feelings on proposals to get an idea of what will and won’t get through. 

Therefore it isn’t as bad a prospect for the two parties as it may appear at first glance, for example Erna Solberg’s government have been able to effectively govern in both minority and majority positions.

In addition, the Socialist Left Party hasn’t ruled out joining the two in government later if the terms were right. 

“SV will at any time in the four-year period be open to negotiating the formation of a red-green majority government. The condition will be that we will negotiate with blank sheets,” 

In the meantime, should negotiations between the Centre Party and the Labour go smoothly, then we could see a new government not long after the national budget on October 12th. After the budget, the current government is set to formally resign and allow the new regime to pick up the reigns. 

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Norway says it hasn’t breached treaty by blocking Russian cargo to Svalbard

Norway is not breaching a century-old treaty covering the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard by blocking Russian cargo to the islands, the country's foreign minister said Wednesday after Moscow threatened retaliatory measures.

Norway says it hasn't breached treaty by blocking Russian cargo to Svalbard

“Norway does not violate the Svalbard Treaty,” foreign minister Anniken Huitfeldt told AFP. “Norway does not try to put obstacles in the way of supplies” to a Russian coal mining settlement in the area, she said, after Russia’s foreign ministry said it had summoned Norway’s charge d’affaires over the issue.

Moscow accused Norway of disrupting the work of the Russian consulate general on Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. Norway has sovereignty over Svalbard but allows citizens of more than 40 countries to exploit the islands’ potentially vast resources on an equal footing.

Moscow has long wanted a bigger say in the archipelago — which it insists on calling Spitsbergen rather than the Norwegian Svalbard – which has been a haunt of its hunters, whalers and fishermen since the 16th century. The Svalbard Treaty handing sovereignty to Norway was signed in 1920.

Huitfeldt argued the shipment that was stopped at the Norwegian-Russian border “has been stopped on the basis of the sanctions that prohibit Russian road transport companies from transporting goods on Norwegian territory”.

Goods transport “does not have to go via mainland Norway by Russian truck”, she said, suggesting other solutions could be found to supply the mining community.

Svalbard was exempt from a ban on port calls by Russian-flagged vessels, “and we have clearly signalled our willingness to consider a dispensation from the flight ban”, the minister said.

The situation in the town of Barentsburg, home to the Russian miners, was “normal”, she said.

“Residents have access to food and medicine,” Huitfeldt said. “It is not Norwegian policy to try to force Russian companies or citizens away from Svalbard, or to put obstacles in the way of the business that takes place in accordance with Norwegian laws and regulations.

“At the same time, Norway’s necessary reaction to Russia’s war in Ukraine may also have practical consequences for Russian companies on Svalbard, as in Norway in general,” Huitfeldt said.