The results of the Norwegian general election this week point to a clear political shift, with Erna Solberg's conservative coalition on the way out after eight years, to be replaced by Labour's Jonas Gahr Støre and his allies on the centre and left. Støre's preferred partners are likely to be the Centre Party, supported by farmers, and the Socialist Left, an arrangement which would give the government a comfortable majority. Such a coalition could, however, be difficult to negotiate, given significant political differences between its centre and left components. The Socialist Left would prefer a wider, more radical alliance, including the Greens and the far-left Red party. But this would be anathema to the Centre and has little appeal for Labour.
The election was fought on two main issues: oil and social equality. Norway’s largest parties, Labour and Conservatives, agree that it must plan for a future that does not rely on oil and gas exploration, but each would see this as necessarily a gradual process. Internally, the country is already impressively far along the road to green transition, but its considerable wealth, and the social investment that wealth has made possible, derive from the export of hydrocarbons. During the campaign the Greens, a potential coalition partner, made an immediate stop to further oil and gas exploration a condition of participation in government. But the party polled below expectations and currently finds itself with little political clout.
After a campaign in which Labour hammered away at growing social inequality, promising tax cuts for those on lower incomes and increases for the wealthy, the electorate decisively turned away from the Conservatives. The Progress party, Solberg's former allies on the populist and anti-immigrant right, also lost heavily. The success of not just Labour but the Socialist Left and the far left suggests that bread and butter issues are still very much a currency in Norwegian politics. With Jonas Gahr Støre's victory, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland will simultaneously have social democratic prime ministers, the first time this constellation has been in place since 2001.