BY SARAH LOFSTROM ’19
Norway’s Erna Solberg, of the centre-right conservative Party, was re-elected as prime minister on Monday, Sept. 11. According to Al Jazeera, Solberg’s platform rested largely on her anti-immigration policy, proposed continued oil drilling in the Arctic and retaining close ties with the EU, of which Norway is not a part. Solberg and her primary coalition partner, the Progress Party, will control 89 of the 169 seat Parliament house. Her re-election is historically significant because Solberg is now the first centre-right Prime Minister to be re-elected in 30 years, as reported by BBC.
According to Al Jazeera, Norway is traditionally known for high living standards, reputable education system and status as a significant welfare state. These factors all contributed to it being voted the “happiest country in the world” by a UN study released in March.
Solberg’s primary opposition was the Labour party, headed by Jonas Gahr Store. Gahr’s platform differed from Solberg’s largely because he vowed to raise taxes on the wealthy in Norway in order to reduce social inequalities and improve public services such as healthcare and education, while Solberg advocated for reducing taxes and continuing to utilize the country’s sovereign wealth fund, which totals a massive $1 trillion, as reported by The New York Times. Norway is Western Europe’s largest producer of oil and gas, therefore the question of how the government engages with the oil industry is highly important.
Harald Baldersheim, a political science professor at the University of Oslo, told The New York Times that “Norwegian politics has never been — and is not — very polarized. Both blocs are gravitating toward the center. In this sense, not much is at stake.” However, the international implications of a continued conservative-led Parliament are potentially disruptive, as Solberg pushes for a continued close relationship with the EU, while also trying to maintain a historically close relationship with Britain, which, since Brexit, has had a rocky association with the EU.
While Norway has been viewed as one of the least politically polarized countries in Europe, its politics have shifted towards the right since 2013 when Solberg first became prime minister. Regarding this rightward shift, politics major Maddie Cook ’18 said that this “romanticized vision” of these European countries such as Norway as misguided. “A contributing factor to why Brexit happened, to the election of Donald Trump, and to the almost election of Marine Le Pen is that all of those people within those countries think they are very liberal and have very progressive policies, said Cook “[These elections] have been a wake up call. We need to reevaluate who we think people are voting for and our own values of who we want to put into office. All of these elections have been surprises for us in some way.”