Who’s in it?
The centre-right progressive Conservative prime minister, Erna Solberg (Norway’s third female prime minister, and their first dyslexic leader), lost to her establishment rival, Jonas Gahr Støre, who scraped the Labour party to victory by just one percentage point. Though he campaigned as an ‘average Joe’, Støre is a multi-millionaire who inherited a business from his father and served as foreign minister under Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg from 2005 to 2012. Unlike Solberg (who studied in Bergen), Støre studied at Sciences Po in Paris, the London School of Economics and Harvard Law School in Boston. During his time in government, he fostered closer ties with Russia. When Stoltenberg abandoned his position as prime minister and moved to New York to take up a military position as head of NATO, Støre was the natural choice to replace him as Labour leader.
Nicknamed ‘Iron Erna’ for her powerful leadership, since 2013 Solberg has served as a down-to-earth and respected ruler, praised for her quick and effective response to the recent coronavirus pandemic (though she was fined by police for breaking rules at a birthday gathering). Now, as Støre takes the reins, Solberg says the work of her government had been completed.
What does it mean?
Norway isn’t a member of the European Union, and over 70 per cent of the population are against joining. It is, however, a member of the European Economic Area and the Schengen Zone, something both the Conservatives and Labour are in favour of keeping. Their rivals to the left (the Socialist Party and the Reds), as well as those in the Centre Party, are in favour of leaving the economic block. Støre hopes to include both parties in his coalition (though the Centrists and Socialists say they’ll refuse to work together), so this issue is a likely sticking point.
But, while relations with Europe has dominated debate for years, this was an election run primarily on oil. In August, a ‘code red for humanity’ was issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Solberg’s Conservatives had been of wrapping up drilling for years, but Labour argued against a quick stop to further exploration, and refused Greens demands to end it by 2035. Consequently, the Green Party refused to enter Støre’s government but, as it turned out, the electorate played them no attention and they failed to reach the 4 per cent election threshold. They’re now non-existent in negotiations to form a government and Norway’s exploration will continue.
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