Almost all the votes are counted, and barring a major upset, Labour is staying in power in Norway.
It’s the first time in 16 years that a government has won back-to-back terms, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg having convinced voters he has handled the recession well. “We have strengthened our position as the country’s largest party, and we have confirmed our position as the driving force in Norwegian politics,” he said. With unemployment at only three per cent and the economy set to grow next year, the Labour leader was seen as a safe pair of hands. Stoltenberg’s party improved its share of the vote and its number of seats, and its coalition partners, the Socialist Left and the Greens, also did well. The centre-right opposition led by the Progress Party maintained its support, but it wasn’t enough to unseat Labour. The economy played a major role in the campaign, with Progress’s Siv Jensen proposing hefty tax cuts and de-regulation funded by Norway’s impressive oil wealth. She counts Britain’s Margaret Thatcher as a role model, but the voters preferred to stick with the tried and tested. Stoltenberg must now decide whether to open up new Arctic areas for oil exploration, whether to tap into that oil wealth to bolster Norway’s economic recovery and whether to re-open the debate on Norway joining the European Union.