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Norway centre-right opposition has claimed victory in parliamentary elections, ending eight years of centre-left rule and making Erna Solberg all but certain to be the oil-rich country’s new prime minister.
With two-thirds of the results counted, the four centre-right parties had 96 seats against 72 for the current centre-left coalition; 85 are needed for a majority.
The results mark a decisive rightward shift in the Nordic countryof 5m inhabitants where more than a decade of oil wealth is raising questions of how to spend that money.
“This is a historic result. It is the first time in 24 years that we have a Conservative prime minister,” Jan Tore Sanner, deputy leader of the Conservatives, told the Financial Times.High quality global journalism requires investment.
The Conservatives, who received 27 per cent of the vote, have campaigned on investing more in Norway’s relatively poor infrastructure as well as its schools and healthcare.
But difficult coalition discussions beckon after their result lagged behind the 30.8 per cent received by the Labour party of current prime minister Jens Stoltenberg. He was let down by the feeble votes of his coalition partners and said on Monday night he would resign after next month’s budget.
Ms Solberg will now have to unite the views of the Conservatives with three disparate parties: the populist rightwing Progress party and the centrist Christian Democrats and Liberals.
“Of course, there will be some difficult issues. But we have had a good co-operation for the last four years in parliament. We hope that all four parties would like to be part of the government,” Mr Sanner said.
But he refused to rule out the possibility of a Conservative minority government, a relatively common occurrence in Norway.
The Conservatives want to debate a potential break-up of the country’s $750bn oil fund – the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund – as well as using the money for long-term investments and tax cuts. Many state-owned companies could be part-privatised.
It wants to stick to a rule that only 4 per cent of the oil fund’s value is allowed to be spent each year by the government. But the Progress party, which came third with 16.1 per cent, wants to spend more, particularly on Norway’s infrastructure. The two centrist parties have also said they would refuse to be in government with Progress, known for its fierce anti-immigration views and for having killer Anders Behring Breivik as a former member.
The elections represent a defeat for Mr Stoltenberg after two terms in office for the Labour prime minister even though his party topped the polls as it has done in every parliamentary vote for 89 years. Praised for his response after Breivik caused 77 deaths in 2011, Mr Stoltenberg was hurt by sharp criticism of the government’s preparedness before the attacks in an official report last year. Voters also appeared tired of the centre-left coalition and wanted a change.