Social Democrats apparently the strongest force in the election

Jonas Gahr Store

The leader of the Social Democratic Workers’ Party in Norway is expected to become Norway’s new head of government.

(Photo: dpa)

Oslo The Social Democratic Labor Party has won the parliamentary elections in Norway and is about to take over government power in the Scandinavian country. After the preliminary count of almost 80 percent of the votes cast, the Social Democrats around their chairman Jonas Gahr Støre came to 26.2 percent late on Monday evening. The conservative party Høyre of Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who has been in power for eight years, was only 20.5 percent at the time. Støre is therefore likely to become the next head of government.

If the projections are confirmed, the two largest parties will each record losses compared to the last parliamentary election four years ago – but significantly higher on Høyre’s side: The Labor Party received 27.4 percent in 2017, Høyre 25.0 percent.

The center party of the third candidate for the office of head of government, Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, on the other hand, was able to gain significantly: It stood at 13.9 percent in the evening, which puts it in third place and two percentage points ahead of the right-wing populist Progress Party. The Socialist Left Party emerged as the fifth strongest force thanks to gains, while four smaller parties were just above or below the four percent threshold.

The polls before the election had long indicated a change of government in the Scandinavian non-EU country. In order to be able to form a majority in the 169-seat Norwegian parliament in Storting, the future head of government will have to rely on several coalition partners.

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According to the figures so far, it could be enough for a slim majority of a most likely center-left alliance, which consists of the Social Democrats as well as the Center Party and the Socialist Left Party. This triumvirate favored by Støre was 87 to 88 seats late in the evening – 85 are necessary for a majority. How many of the smaller parties make the jump over the four percent hurdle has an impact on the majority structure. If you add the Greens and the Red Party, however, the center-left bloc has significantly more seats overall than the bourgeois-conservative camp around Solbergs Høyre.

Minority government possible

Minority governments are also not uncommon in Scandinavia: In Denmark and Sweden, for example, Støre’s social democratic party colleagues Mette Frederiksen and Stefan Löfven rule. Solberg has also led Norway with a minority government since the beginning of 2020 after the right-wing populists left the coalition.

Almost 3.9 million Norwegians were called to vote in the election. Almost 1.65 million voters had already voted early, probably also in view of the corona pandemic – that corresponded to more than 42 percent of all eligible voters and a record in a Norwegian parliamentary election. A preliminary final result was expected on Tuesday.

In the affluent oil nation, climate and environmental protection – and the 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 gave parties with a clear climate focus a boost. The fact that Solberg had brought her country through the Corona crisis relatively well gave her party a boost in spring 2020 – but not enough to survive until the election.

Erna Solberg, who is considered prudent and fact-oriented, has ruled Norway since 2013. Her social democratic rival Jonas Gahr Støre had previously been 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 strongest force at the time, but Solberg was able to rely on the stronger allies, thus securing a second four-year term in office.

More: Norway before change of government: “Failure to replace would be the greatest sensation since 1945”