After eight years of rule by a conservative prime minister, Norway is moving to the left. In the oil country of Northern Europe, the Social Democrats are likely to have a say in the future. Many parties are grappling with the four-percent hurdle.
The Social Democratic Action Party has won the parliamentary elections in Norway and is on the cusp of taking government power in the Scandinavian country. After an initial count of nearly 80 percent of the votes cast, the Social Democrats around their president, Jonas Gahr Stoer, reached 26.2 percent late on Monday night. Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s Hoyer Conservative Party, which has been in power for eight years, was only 20.5 percent at the time. So Stour is likely to become the next prime minister.
If forecasts are confirmed, the two largest parties will each post losses compared to the last parliamentary election four years ago – but much higher by Høyre: Labor had 27.4% in 2017, and Høyre’s 25.0%.
The Center Party, the third candidate for prime minister, Trygiv Slagsvold Widom, managed to make significant gains: it settled at 13.9 percent in the evening, putting it in third place and two percentage points ahead. From the right-wing Populist Progress Party. Thanks to the gains, the Socialist Left made its mark as the fifth strongest force, while four smaller parties were just above or below the four percent barrier.
Perhaps a narrow majority for the center-left coalition
Opinion polls long before the elections indicated a change of government in the non-EU Scandinavian country. In order to be able to form a majority in Norway’s 169-seat parliament, the future head of government will have to rely on several coalition partners.
According to the numbers so far, that might be enough for a slim majority of what is likely the center-left coalition, which is made up of the Social Democrats, the Center Party and the Socialist Left Party. This trio favored by Støre had 87 to 88 seats in the late evening – 85 seats necessary for a majority. How many small parties that jump over the four percent barrier have an impact on the majority. If you add the Green Party and the Red Party, the center-left bloc has much more seats overall than the conservative bourgeois camp around Solbergs Høyre.
Minority governments are also not uncommon in Scandinavia: in Denmark and Sweden, for example, fellow Social Democratic Party colleagues Mette Frederiksen and Stefan Lofven ruled. Solberg has also led Norway’s minority government since early 2020 after right-wing populists left the coalition.
Oil politics plays an important role in the election campaign
Nearly 3.9 million Norwegians were asked to vote in the elections. Nearly 1.65 million voters had already voted early on, perhaps also in light of the coronavirus pandemic – which equates to more than 42 per cent of all eligible voters and is a record in Norway’s parliamentary elections. A preliminary final result was expected on Tuesday.
In the oil-rich country, climate and environmental protection – and associated oil policy – played an important role in the election campaign. The publication of the latest special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) a good month ago has given parties with a clear focus on climate a boost. The fact that Solberg has gotten her country through the coronavirus crisis relatively well has given her party a boost in the spring of 2020 — but not enough to survive until the election.
Erna Solberg, considered wise and fact-oriented, has been ruling Norway since 2013. Her social democratic rival, Jonas Gahr Store, was Foreign Minister for many years under the Prime Minister and today’s NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. In the last election in 2017, he had already run against Solberg – his party was also the most powerful force at the time, but Solberg was able to count on stronger allies, thus securing a second four-year term.