Norway’s voting in what is expected to be a close general election between the ruling centre-left coalition and divided centre-right opposition.
The government of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s Labour, the Socialist Left and Centre Party champion a leading state role in the economy and oppose tax cuts and privatisation. In power since 2005, Stoltenberg’s been widely praised for steering Norway relatively safely through the global recession. His closest rival is Siv Jensen. But her right wing Progress party is unlikely to be in a position to govern because the opposition is riven by splits. Conservative leader, Erna Solberg, is however seen as a potential prime minister and she has offered to sit down for policy talks with all right-of-centre parties if the left loses its majority. She also wants to relaunch a debate on Norway joining the EU. Whoever wins, the contest is likely to determine whether the affluent country opens new Artic areas for energy exploration and how it spends its vast oil revenues. Norway’s massive oil windfall has been kept at a distance from the economy to avoid overheating. But as the offshore fund swelled to some 300 billion euros, or 55,000 euros per citizen, it has stoked Norwegians’ expectations for public services. However, with unemployment at just three per cent and a return to growth expected next year, the government is widely seen as a safe pair of hands.