September 28. 2021. 4:48

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Norway’s centre-left on course for power as PM Erna Solberg concedes

Norway’s Labour party leader Jonas Gahr Store, who is set to be prime minister, at an election event in Oslo. Photograph: Javad Parsa/NTB/AFP via Getty Images


Norway’s centre-left opposition regained power after an unprecedented eight years of right-wing rule in an election dominated by the future of the country’s oil industry and inequality.

Labour leader Jonas Gahr Stoere is now to start coalition talks following the result after Labour Party and its two left-leaning allies – the Socialist Left and the eurosceptic Centre Party – won 100 of of the 169 parliament seats.

Conservative prime minister Erna Solberg conceded late on Monday night. For the first time in 62 years, the election result means all five Nordic countries have a left-wing prime minister at the same time.

Saying that the result means that it will “finally be the turn of normal people in this country”, Mr Store promised to make Norway more equal, as well acting to combat the world’s climate crisis.

Long a bastion of social democracy, the Nordics have experienced a rise in right-wing parties in recent decades. Although Norway’s Labour party is one of the most relentless political machines in Europe, coming in first place in every election since 1924, it has experienced a consistent fall in support in recent years, leading to the rise of several smaller left-wing parties.

“This is a very good result for us. This was a climate and inequality election. The big long-term challenge is how do we prepare for the transition of Norway’s economy in a world that is rapidly moving towards renewable energy,” Espen Barth Eide, a former Labour foreign minister, told the Financial Times.

The centre-right held power for the past eight years due to the strong showing of the Conservatives and the populist Progress party, the two big losers of Monday’s elections.

Oil industry

Despite his focus on climate change, Mr Store has stressed that he does not want to prematurely wind down Norway’s oil industry, the biggest in western Europe.

The issue sparked life into the election campaign, which had lacked a central theme until a United Nations climate change report warned last month that humanity was at “code red”.

Mr Store’s preferred coalition with the rural Centre party and the pro-environment Socialist Left has a small majority in the new parliament.

But the new prime minister is set for difficult coalition talks over issues such as the future of the oil industry and the country’s place in Europe. Both Centre and Socialist Left are sceptical of Norway’s status in the European Economic Area, essentially taking EU rules without any influence. Labour has said it wants no change.

A three-party coalition would mean the Labour leader would not need to rely on the support of smaller, more radical parties such as the communist Red party and the Greens. “If this is real, it’s as good as it gets,” Mr Eide added.

The environmental vote on the left appeared to go mostly to Socialist Left and Red, which are both strong on inequality as well, rather than the Greens, which finished under the 4 per cent barrier needed to gain extra seats while improving on their score from 2017. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021