Norway’s New Premier to Meet Anti-Immigrant Party

Katrin Benhold, New York Times, September 11, 2013

Norway’s incoming conservative prime minister, Erna Solberg, on Tuesday prepared for tricky coalition talks with an anti-immigrant party jockeying to enter government for the first time.

The fact that the anti-immigrant Progress Party appears to hold the key to securing a majority in Parliament has caused unease in Norway because Anders Behring Breivik, a far-right militant who massacred 77 people in 2011, was once among the party’s members.

“We will ensure a solid footprint in a new government,” the party’s leader, Siv Jensen, vowed Tuesday. After campaigning on a platform promising curbs on immigration and more leeway to tap into Norway’s oil wealth, Ms. Jensen is expected to lobby for the post of finance minister.

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Ms. Solberg, 52, a former Girl Scout leader nicknamed Iron Erna, will be Norway’s first conservative prime minister since 1990 and its second female leader. {snip}

“We will give this country a new government,” Ms. Solberg said late on Monday night after Mr. Stoltenberg conceded defeat. She has said that she is prepared to form a coalition with the Progress Party, which has recently tried to tone down its anti-immigrant oratory. But persuading two other smaller center-right parties to join such a coalition might be difficult.

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The Conservative, Progress and two small center-right parties, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals, ended up with 96 seats in Parliament, 11 more than needed for a majority. Mr. Stoltenberg and his Green and Socialist allies won 72 seats.

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In Stavanger, Norway’s oil capital, Kjell Gamlen, 54, said he voted for the Progress Party because “we need something altogether new in Norwegian politics.”

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As some feared a harder line on immigration in a future coalition, some political observers said any impact of the Progress Party as a junior partner in a governing coalition would probably be minor.

“The Progress Party cannot be compared to the Front National in France or the Danish People’s Party or German neo-Nazi groups,” said Frank Aarebrot, a professor of comparative politics at the University of Bergen and a prominent political commentator. “Its libertarian streak is as strong as its anti-immigrant streak. The current leader is much more concerned with privatizing hospitals and schools than with immigration.”

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