OSLO: Norway’s opposition Conservatives, promising tax cuts and better healthcare, won elections in a landslide on Monday but faced tough coalition talks with a populist party that wants to spend more of the accumulated oil riches and curb immigration.
Led by Erna Solberg, a former girl scout leader who has overcome dyslexia, the Conservatives promise to diversify the economy away from oil, privatise state firms, and reduce some of the world’s highest taxes rates to give the private sector more breathing room.
Solberg, 52, will become Norway’s second female prime minister, as well as its first Conservative prime minister since 1990. At least the top two cabinet posts — and possibly the top three — are likely to be filled by women.
“Voters have given a historically strong victory for the centre-right,” said a tearful Solberg, nicknamed “Iron Erna” for her tough stances when she served in cabinet between 2001 and 2005. “We will give this country a new government.” Norway has enjoyed rare economic success during the past decade, escaping Europe’s economic crisis with little more than a scratch, as its booming offshore oil sector lifted per capita GDP to $100,000 and a huge public sector insulated the economy.
But growth is now slowing, competitiveness is stagnating, and the government’s record on critical social services is mixed. Voters have accused outgoing Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of wasting a once-in-a-lifetime economic boom. With 76 percent of the vote counted, the Conservatives, the populist right-wing Progress Party and two centrist parties that campaigned together to oust Stoltenberg were set to collect 96 seats in parliament, 11 more than needed for the majority.
Stoltenberg and his allies collected just 72 seats and the prime minister announced he would step down after eight years and two straight terms in office.