Norway. Forward-looking, but not too much
The appreciation towards Jens Stoltenberg seemed to have sheltered the Centre-Left from all the temptations offered to the Norwegians by the opposition, as the promise of easing the tax burden: things have turned out differently, more and more people have ascribed the economic prosperity enjoyed during the two terms of office (from 2005 to present) to events such as the new oil extractions in the Barents Sea or to the new reserves in the North Sea.
- Thursday, 12 September 2013
After eight years when the Labour Party (still in first place, retaining the thirty-one per cent of the votes) seemed to be back to its former identification with the state as in the fifteen years after World War II, on September 9th it was the turn of Conservatives (Høyre) to take over the government thanks to Erna Solberg, born 52 years ago in Bergen. The new leader reassures that the basics of the Nordic social model won’t be affected: “we are a liberal party, we do not make revolutions”.
In a country that keeps a growth of 2.5 per cent and an unemployment rate limited to 3 percent, everyone believes that healthcare and education should remain public, but impatience is growing about the tie that binds the government to annually spend no more of 4 percent drawn from economic return of the sovereign wealth fund (that has now reached 750 billion dollars and that is devised to deliver to future generations a welfare comparable to the existing one). Showing different degrees of caution, Centre-Right’s political parties plan to use a larger portion of annual revenues of the fund to improve infrastructure, healthcare, public services and education.
Centre-Right parties (relying on 96 seats out of 169 of the Storting, the unicameral Parliament) far exceed the threshold of 85 required to form a government, while the Centre-Left coalition does not go beyond 72 seats. The kingmaker is now the Conservative Party, who relies on 48 representatives after receiving twenty-seven percent of the votes: an agreement with Fremskrittspartiet (FrP, Progress Party, an anti-tax right-wing party) won’t be easy, as on the issue of sovereign wealth fund FrP is particularly eager to allocate cash to the economy.
Looking at the outgoing coalition, maybe if Stoltenberg had to stop a few steps from the third term it was because his allies have collected just a few votes (the SV, Sosialistisk Venstreparti, stopped at four percent ) but also the Centre-Right headquarter is upside down, as the Conservatives have reconquered the primacy among the liberal parties and Fremskrittspartiet or FrP, only a few years ago the largest opposition party, was scaled down. Oddly, now that the right-wing populist party backed off to sixteen per cent (losing 12 representatives and then remaining with 29 deputies) can open his way for the government, for the conservatives are considering the viability of this solution.
No other political force wants to form an alliance with the Fremskrittspartiet, even if its leader, Siv Jensen, starting from a few years back is bringing the party platform to a more moderate policy. Following the tragedy of Utøya (that was certainly not forgotten in the land, four young survivors of the massacre occurred two years ago have been elected by the Labour) the FrP has somewhat softened his initial anti-immigrant stance.
The Labour Party, with 55 seats, lost nine representatives in comparison to 2009, while the Conservatives of Høyre have earned 18 deputies. The christian-democratics of Kristelig Folkeparti and moderates of Senterpartiet will have 10 representatives each (each of these parties reached five per cent of the votes in the elections). The Liberal Party (secular and pro-free market) Venstre, by getting five percent rises from 2 to 9 Members. The Socialist Left Party (SV) loses 4 representatives, dropping to 7.
Party-lists centered on a single theme such as "People's List Against Oil Drilling in Lofoten" (opposed to the potential drilling in the islands of the far north) or the Pirate Party haven’t picked up a lot of votes , neither the Coastal Party (fishermen) manages to regain his feet: a sign that there is no major issue which raises a general concern as to enhance and diversify to the maximum the economic growth whose foundations were laid in the last decade, to protect it against the outside financial turmoil whose rapid conclusion, at least looking at Europe from the north, isn’t taken for granted.