Norway Opposition Infighting Can’t Stop Coalition, Solberg Says

The head of Norway’s Conservative Party said feuds inside the opposition she leads aren’t deep enough to split the bloc, which polls show will win next month’s election.

Erna Solberg, whose Conservative Party has surged ahead in polls to become Norway’s biggest political group, is set to head a coalition with the anti-immigration Progress Party, the Christian Democrats and the Liberal Party. Their projected victory after the Sept. 9 vote would end Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s eight years in government at the helm of a Labor-led coalition.

“There will be a firm commitment between these four parties,” Solberg said in an interview in Oslo. If a four-party coalition isn’t possible, then a Conservative-led government will come to “an agreement in parliament on how to run and how to consult” with each other, she said.

Opposition parties are trying to carve out their own policy corners by hammering platforms held by other candidates. Siv Jensen, leader of the Progress Party that was founded as a protest group against taxes, has said Solberg is in “Social Democratic bubble” as her party tempers pledges to cut taxes in an effort to woo Labor voters.

Stoltenberg told Norway’s VG newspaper he may not immediately resign if he loses the election, arguing voters would be left without a unified coalition.

‘Stupid Rule’

Yet Solberg enjoys higher personal popularity than Stoltenberg. A TNS Gallup poll published by TV 2 showed 31.6 percent of voters want her to be premier, compared with 28.6 percent for Stoltenberg.

A Solberg-led coalition would face friction among its smaller parties as the Christian Democrats and Liberal Party question the Progress Party’s tough stance on immigration. The group, historically an outsider in Norwegian politics, once counted convicted mass murdered Anders Behring Breivik as a member.

While working to unseat the government, Liberal Party leader Trine Skei Grande said last week that one of her group’s goals is to limit the influence the Progress Party would have in a new government. The Progress Party has also isolated itself in seeking to spend more of Norway’s $760 billion oil fund, rejecting a rule that limits spending to 4 percent of the fund.

“It’s a stupid rule,” Jensen said in an Aug. 5 interview. “But do we need a rule for the fiscal policy? Yes we do. It will be easy to create a new rule that we will both agree on and that will stabilize the economy and make us invest more and reduce spending.”

While polls show that the Progress Party could be the second largest in parliament, Solberg said “it depends on the policy discussions afterward who can sit in government.”

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