Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg 'claims victory' in election

A strong attempt from a self-styled Viking Margaret Thatcher to complete a take-over for the Right in Scandinavia failed last night, according to provisional results from Norway’s close-run election.

Siv Jensen, 40, the leader of the populist Progress Party, who has modelled herself on the former British leader, received a surge in support on the back of her polarising rhetoric blaming immigrants for crime and sponging off the state.

But the ruling left-of-centre coalition of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, 50, did enough to win a second term for his red-green coalition with the narrowest of margins.

Provisional results put Mr Stoltenberg’s coalition on 86 seats in the 169-seat parliament, just enough to cling to power.

Norway is the last bastion of the Left in Scandinavia after successes for the Right in Denmark, Finland and Sweden where the Social Democrats lost their 12-year grip on power in 2006.

Mr Stoltenberg campaigned on his record of protecting the economy and the welfare state, thanks to the investment since 1996 of nearly all of Norway’s oil revenues in a massive state pension fund.

The oil fund, invested in international stocks and bonds and designed to continue financing generous benefits when the oil runs out, was worth $423 billion at the end of last month.

Norway is the world’s fifth-biggest oil exporter and has Europe’s lowest unemployment rate at just three per cent. Around ten per cent of the population are immigrants.

“The Labour Party has the best policies for stabilising the economy and protecting jobs, and also for care for the elderly, education and transport,” said Mr Stoltenberg as he voted on Sunday.

“Labour wants to fight for the welfare state and to spend money on joint solutions. But the Progress Party wants to fight for huge tax cuts and to interfere in the public sector,” he added.

The hardline campaign of Ms Jensen’s Progress Party, which has criticised what it called the “sneak Islamisation” of Norway, divided the parties on the Right and would probably have made it impossible for them to agree on forming a government with her.

Going into the elections, there was no deal between the four main opposition parties but the mainstream Conservatives had left the door open to a coalition.

Ms Jensen called for closed asylum centres where refugees coming to Norway without correct identity papers would be kept until their status was known. “The government has totally lost control of the asylum policy,” she said.

In a recent interview, she added: “There is a very large number of immigrants living on welfare and they have been for a very, very long time. That is not helping people.

“They often tend to commit crimes and end up in prison, where they can get the wrong ideas.”


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