Norway's Election Is Close: Here Are the Possible Coalitions

Erna Solberg, Norway's prime minister, left, listens as Jonas Gahr Store, leader of Norway's Labor Party, speaks during a televised political debate outside the parliament ahead of the election in Oslo, Norway, on Sept. 6.

Photographer: Kyrre Lien/Bloomberg

With the established parties losing ground, Norway’s election is looking like a nail-biter.

That means there will be much wheeling and dealing after the Sept. 11 vote. If history is any guide (the last party to govern alone was Labor, 17 years ago) talks will end in a coalition. It could also end in a minority government, as we have seen over the past four years.

Here’s a brief guide to the potential scenarios facing the Nordic country after the vote:

Solberg II

Parliamentary arithmetic could hand outgoing Prime Minister Erna Solberg a second mandate at the helm of a Conservative-Progress Party coalition, again supported in parliament by the Christian Democrats and the Liberals. Latest polls suggest the new iteration of this center-right alliance could squeak out a victory to once again command a majority in the 169-member strong Storting.

Should the numbers add up and an agreement be reached, expect more tax cuts and additional investments in infrastructure financed by proceeds from the country’s vast sovereign wealth fund, as well as more policies designed to help businesses shift away from oil.

Tensions between the four are likely to remain. During the election campaign, the Progress Party infuriated the pro-environment Liberals with plans to expand oil and gas exploration in the arctic and the Christian Democrats for saying their leader is too soft on Islamic immigration.

Labor Coalitions

Norway’s biggest party for the past 90 years entered the election campaign confident of success, but has since tanked in the polls. Labor’s natural partners are the Socialist Left and the agrarian Center Party, with whom now NATO leader Jens Stoltenberg ruled between 2005 and 2013. Stoltenberg’s successor, Jonas Gahr Store, has ruled out working with the hard-left Red Party and the Greens, which have enjoyed a surge in the polls. He may have to reconsider if the numbers don’t stack up.

A Labor-led center-left coalition would aim to reverse some tax cuts passed by the Solberg government and boost spending on the welfare state. Labor’s 2018 shadow budget envisages slightly lower oil spending than the outgoing government’s.

Gahr Store will also face internal pressure, with the Socialist Left pushing for a stop to oil exploration and the Center Party demanding that Norway look at renegotiating its trade agreement with the European Union.

Labor could also reach out to the Christian Democrats and the Liberals, but that would be a very bitter pill for both sides to swallow.

The Greens say that they are willing to work with both blocs, though they are currently tightly intertwined with the Labor Party in Oslo’s City Hall.

Grand Coalition?

An alliance of Norway’s two biggest parties, Labor and the Conservatives, could easily overcome the 85-seat threshold needed for a majority in parliament. However, despite Scandinavia’s reputation for consensus politics, a German-style grand coalition has never happened and has again been ruled out by both sides. What’s more, most of the other minor parties present in parliament have refused to straddle the left-right divide, making new configurations highly improbable.

One thing is certain, an untested grand coalition would probably be the best for the nation’s beleaguered oil industry. The two main parties are the biggest backers of exploration, cheered on by businesses and the unions.

Again, highly improbable. But as recent events have show, democracy can create many strange results.

— With assistance by Sveinung Sleire

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