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.
It seemed a perfectly-timed stunt from Jens Stoltenberg. The Norwegian prime minister, lagging behind opposition parties ahead of parliamentary elections next month, pretended to be a taxi driver around Oslo, demonstrating his charm to ordinary voters. But then things started to go wrong. It transpired some of his passengers had been paid to make the journey while the whole thing had been dreamt up by Try Advertising, the governing Labour party’s ad agency. Worst of all, one of his passengers complained his bad driving had worsened her back problems. As Mr Stoltenberg said: “I think the country and Norwegian taxi passengers are best served if I am the prime minister and not a taxi driver.”
Norway’s prime minister worked secretly as a taxi driver in central Oslo for a day in June, leaving his passengers wondering whether their elected leader had quit the day job. Wearing a taxi driver’s uniform and sunglasses, Jens Stoltenberg drove passengers around the streets of the Norwegian capital for several hours, confirming his identity only after his passengers realized who he was. The stunt, dreamed up by an ad agency as part of Stoltenberg’s campaign for re-election, was filmed on hidden cameras. A video of the event was published on Sunday by daily newspaper VG and on the PM’s Facebook page. Stoltenberg told the newspaper he had wanted to hear people’s honest views on politics. “If there is one place where people say what they really mean about most things, it is in a taxi. Right from the gut,” he told VG.