Norway Premier Solberg Shifts Ministers to Shore Up Support

  • Finance, foreign and industry ministers to remain in place
  • Support for PM Solberg's Conservatives has fallen 3.1pp: Poll

Norway’s prime minister is reshuffling her cabinet, swapping out ministers for the first time since taking power in 2013, as the government reboots ahead of the 2017 election.

The environment, labor and culture ministers were switched out and a new immigration minister was appointed, among other changes, according to a statement released in Oslo Wednesday. Top ministers, including Finance Minister Siv Jensen, Foreign Minister Boerge Brende and Petroleum and Energy Minister Tord Lien, remain in their posts.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s government is struggling to shore up the economy of western Europe’s biggest oil producer amid a plunge in crude prices. Unemployment has risen to the highest since at least 2006 as the petroleum industry has cut tens of thousands of jobs.

“Rising unemployment and lower oil prices are contributing to us having bigger restructuring challenges,” Solberg said at a press conference. The lower “krone rate is helping, but isn’t enough” as we will need even bigger restructuring efforts, she said.

While plunging oil prices has driven down the currency 3 percent against the euro over the past year, providing some help to the economy, the government still needs to do its part to help Norway through the adjustment, Solberg said at a press conference.

The government has recently regained some support as it dealt with a surge in inflows of refugees by tightening border controls and asylum rules. Solberg’s Conservatives are down 3.1 percentage points to 23.7 percent from 2013 parliamentary elections, according to a Respons Analyse poll done this month. Jensen’s anti-immigration Progress Party has recently rebounded, and is up 1.3 percentage points to 17.6 percent from 2013.

Among changes announced Wednesday was the appointment of the Progress Party’s Sylvi Listhaug as integration and immigration minister. She was previously agriculture minister.

Solberg, who took power in 2013 from Labor, has governed with the support of the smaller Liberals and Christian Democrats. The four parties have 51.5 percent of the electorate’s support, according to the Respons poll. Labor remains Norway’s biggest party with backing of about 31.3 percent.

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