Our endorsement for Norway’s general election

Norwegians go to the polls on Monday to choose a new Parliament and all polls are predicting defeat for the current centre-left coalition of Labour, the Socialist Left and the Centre Party. The Conservative Party leader, Erna Solberg, looks all but certain to become Norway’s next prime minister in a non-socialist government. We welcome this change.

Ms Solberg leads a pragmatic, centre-right Conservative Party (Høyre) with a liberal programme of government. She wants to improve efficiency and introduce more public-private partnerships in the provision of public services – she has said many times that it doesn’t matter who provides the services, but how the services are provided. This is exactly what the state should be concerned about: quality and efficiency, not an obsession with being in charge of provision no matter what.

The Conservative leader wants to prepare the Norwegian economy for a future without oil revenues –which will happen eventually. She has accused the current leftist coalition of not doing enough on this area. Her idea of a post-oil Norway is centered on science and technology, that’s why she wants to invest on education – especially science and math education – to prepare Norwegian students for what’s coming in the next decades. This long-term vision is perhaps what attracts us the most about Ms Solberg: she’s a politician thinking in the long term, not a populist focused on winning an election now.     

Ms Solberg’s Conservatives are not just liberal on economics, but also on social issues. The party supported the legalisation of equal marriage and adoption by same-sex couples in 2008 and has a progressive approach to personal liberties. A Conservative-led government would also implement a tougher line on an increasingly authoritarian Russia under Putin. Ms Solberg has said that she will adopt a strong pro-human rights line in her dealings with Russia, especially at a moment in which Moscow is introducing laws to persecute its LGBT population.

Even though the Conservatives are polling at record levels, they will need to form a coalition to form a stable government. They have three potential non-socialist parties to choose from: the centrist Liberal Party, the Christian Democrats and the right-wing libertarian Progress Party –although some would dispute the term libertarian to identify the latter. The Liberals are by far the closest to the Conservatives, but they are a minority party and will not be enough to form a government. The Christian Democrats are more socially conservative (although not authoritarian) and less liberal on economic issues, but they are centrist enough on both areas to be able to form a coalition with the Conservatives and the Liberals. This Conservative-Liberal-Christian Democrat coalition would be our preferred option. It would be a centrist government – yet liberal enough to implement the necessary reforms Norway needs.

But the Liberals and the Christian Democrats are not polling strong enough so this three-party coalition may not have the necessary seats to form a stable majority government. If that is the case, then the Conservatives will have to ally with the more right-wing Progress Party, which is mainly libertarian on economics but has an anti-immigrant line which we profoundly dislike (as well as everybody else in Norway’s political circles). The Liberals and the Christians Democrats have already stated that they will not participate in a coalition that contains the Progress Party, so Ms Solberg will have a tough job forming a four-party coalition – which she said she would prefer instead of a Conservative-Progress one – in case the three-party option does not have the necessary numbers.

All in all, we are glad Norway will have a liberal Conservative prime minister like Ms Solberg and a liberal Conservative-led government –that is, of course, if polls are correct. If we had a vote on Monday’s election, we would give it to Ms Solberg’s Conservatives.