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The three candidates to become Norway’s next prime minister Erna Solberg from the Conservatives, Jonas Gahr Stoere from Labour Party and Trygve Slagsvold Vedum from the Centre Party attend a debate in central Oslo August 9, 2021. — Reuters pic
The three candidates to become Norway’s next prime minister Erna Solberg from the Conservatives, Jonas Gahr Stoere from Labour Party and Trygve Slagsvold Vedum from the Centre Party attend a debate in central Oslo August 9, 2021. — Reuters pic

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OSLO, Sept 13 — What is at stake and who is tipped to win Norway’s legislative elections today? Here are five things to know:

Change is in the air

Barring a major upset, Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s centre-right coalition that has governed Norway since 2013 is set to be ousted, according to opinion polls and experts.

Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Store is instead poised to win the polls.

Whether he will be able to form a coalition of left-leaning and green parties, with a majority, is another question.

Veteran versus millionaire

No other Conservative leader has governed Norway as long as Solberg, nicknamed “Iron Erna”.

A native of the western city of Bergen, the 60-year-old steered the country through successive crises from the migrant wave in 2015 to plunging oil prices and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Store, 61, is a millionaire whose main campaign plank is the fight against inequality.

A graduate of the prestigious Sciences Po university in Paris, he follows in the footsteps of his mentor and friend Jens Stoltenberg, the current Nato secretary general. Store served as foreign minister and then health minister in Stoltenberg’s governments.

He failed to oust Solberg in the 2017 election.

Climate crisis

The UN’s alarming climate report in August has propelled global warming to the heart of the election campaign, with a focus on the future of the oil industry in western Europe’s biggest producer.

Several parties on both sides — the Greens, Socialist Left and Liberals — want to put an end to the oil industry and ban any further prospecting.

Their ability to make any inroads on the issue with the bigger parties — which are more favourable to the industry — will depend on their election scores and the balance of power.

Splintered political landscape

Norway’s splintered political landscape makes coalition-building difficult.

The two biggest parties, Labour and the Conservatives, have seen their voter bases decline with the rise of smaller parties.

On the left, five parties are in agreement to oust the current government, but some have diametrically opposed positions and have said they will not govern together.

If Store is unable to build a coalition with a majority, he could choose to govern solo in a minority government and get backing on a case-by-case basis to pass legislation.

On the right, things are not much different.

The Conservatives are supported by a clutch of smaller parties, which also have their own disagreements.

The magic number 4

Much will depend on the small parties’ election night scores. Several of them are hovering around the four per cent level.

Under the Norwegian system, parties that get more than four per cent qualify for the 19 so-called “levelling seats” in the 169-seat parliament, which often prove crucial for building a majority. — AFP

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