People began voting in several large
Norwegian cities yesterday in parliamentary elections expected to bring
the centre-left opposition to power
after a race dominated by the future of
oil and the climate crisis.
Opinion polls point to a convincing win
for the bloc led by the Labour party.
Such an outcome would end an unprecedented eight years of centre-right rule
in the wealthy, oil-producing Scandinavian nation. But it is unclear how many
parties will enter parliament and which
will be part of a new government.
The official election day is today, but
voting got under way yesterday in the
capital Oslo, the main oil city Stavanger
and Arctic town Bodo, among others.
More than a third of the electorate have
already cast their votes in advance.
The future of oil in western Europe’s
largest petroleum producer has dominated the run-up to the polls as small
parties demanded Norway take more
dramatic action to combat climate
change. The Greens have said they will
only support a coalition that immediately stops all exploration for new
sources of fossil fuel. Victory would
mean a centre-left prime minister in all
five Nordic countries simultaneously
for the first time since 1959 and would
vindicate Jonas Gahr Store, the former
Labour foreign and health minister,
after his defeat in the previous elections
in 2017. Store is favourite to head the
next Norwegian government.
“He is going to be a strong prime minister with a long-term vision for the
future. He knows the oil and energy
transition well. And it’s also important
in this complicated world out there that
he has international experience,” exLabour foreign minister Espen Barth
“People will be confident when Putin
picks up the phone,” he added.
Conservative prime minister Erna
Solberg is the first centre-right leader in
modern Norwegian history to serve two
full terms, but surveys have suggested
that the strength of the smaller parties
on the left will allow Store to form a coalition and usurp her.
In the last large opinion poll for state
broadcaster NRK, the left was on course
to win 100 seats in the 169-seat parliament while right-leaning parties would
take the remainder. Store’s preferred
coalition of Labour, the rural Centre
party and the Socialist Left were predicted to be on the cusp of a majority
with 84 seats.
Labour is set to be the biggest single
party with about a quarter of the vote
compared with a fifth for the Conservatives, according to the poll.
Should the three main centre-left parties fall short, Store would need the support of either the communist Red party
or the Greens, both of which he has criticised over their desire to set an end date
for oil production.
Some political observers think a possible compromise could be to restrict or
even end oil exploration in the Norwegian Arctic. Companies have in any case
been turning their back on the Barents
Sea area after disappointing exploration
The election campaign was low-key
until the release of a landmark UN climate report last month, with the organisation’s secretary-general warning it
was now “code red” for humanity.
Environmental parties such as the
Greens, Socialist Left and the centreright Liberals all benefited from a rise in
the polls following publication of the
report, while the pro-oil Centre party
has suffered a steady decline in recent
Both the Labour and Conservative
parties back the oil industry but believe
its importance for Norway will decline
as production falls in the coming decades. Labour believes the centre-right
government has been too slow in making the transition to a green economy
and the left would have a more interventionist industrial policy, Eide went on to
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