Norway’s center-right opposition, pledging privatization, tax cuts and smaller government, was set for a sweeping election win on Monday but faces difficult coalition talks since a populist anti-immigration party will hold the balance of power. Norway has enjoyed rare economic success, thanks to its flourishing offshore oil sector boosting per capita GDP to $100,000. But growth is slowing and voters are ready to punish Labour Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, accusing him of wasting a once-in-a-lifetime economic boom. “To me, this vote is about using our fortunes better,” Oslo voter Geir Henriksen, 36, said. “Public service, like health and elderly care, is not getting any better even as the government spends more and more. We need to rebalance government.” Labour could still end up as the biggest party with 30 percent, opinion polls show, but that will not be enough. The four center-right parties, led by likely future prime minister Erna Solberg’s Conservatives, are on course for around 100 seats in parliament, 15 more than needed for a majority.
“We need more legs to stand on in the economy, not just oil,” said Solberg, nicknamed “Iron Erna” for her tough stances when she served in cabinet between 2001 and 2005. “We are a liberal-conservative party, we do not make revolutions … This will be a road of small steps.”
The trickiest task for Solberg is likely to be talks with the populist, anti-immigration and anti-tax Progress Party, which is set to finish second among the opposition groups.
Although Progress has toned down its rhetoric, it is seen by some as too radical to enter government and once had among its members Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in 2011 in a gun and bomb attack targeting Labour.
The small Christian Democrats and Liberals, whose votes may also be needed for a majority, are not keen on teaming up with Progress, objecting to its policies on immigration and spending, raising the prospect that Solberg may lead a minority cabinet.