Norway election result: Labour celebrates but coalition talks loom


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Norway’s Conservative prime minister Erna Solberg has conceded defeat to the left-leaning opposition after a general election campaign dominated by questions about the future of the key oil industry in western Europe’s largest producer.

“The Conservative government’s work is finished for this time around,” Solberg told supporters on Monday. “I want to congratulate Jonas Gahr Støre, who now seems to have a clear majority for a change of government.”

The Labour leader, Jonas Gahr Støre, told a cheering and clapping crowd: “We waited, we hoped, and we have worked so hard, and now we can finally say it: We did it!”

However, the exact shape of the “Red-Green” coalition set to run the Nordic country is far from clear.

Exit polls suggest Støre’s centre-left party will win 48 seats in Norway’s 169-seat parliament, with his preferred three-party coalition on course for a slim majority of 88 MPs.

However, Støre’s potential alliance with the agrarian Centre party, on 26 seats, and the Socialist Left, on 13, is divided over key issues including whether to also seek the support of two smaller leftwing parties, the communist Red party and the Greens.

Even a three-party left-leaning coalition would require the future prime minister to convince his potential partners to compromise on a range of policies, from the future of the oil industry and private ownership to Norway’s relations with the EU.

“We will take plenty of time to talk to the other parties, and we have respect for the fact that this has not been decided until it has been decided,” Støre, 61, a former foreign minister, said earlier on his way to Labour’s election party on Monday.

Labour’s Anniken Huitfeldt said the victory was “beyond all expectations. I have never seen such a large majority for a change. It means a lot to form a government with the Socialist Left and Centre party, and I hope that will be the result.”

But Audun Lysbakken, leader of the Socialist Left, which favours a broader five-party alliance, predicted coalition talks would be tough. “Everything indicates that there is no way to power and a majority in the new parliament that does not go through us – and we will use that power,” he told supporters.

Negotiations could have a major impact on fossil fuel production in western Europe’s largest oil and gas producer, with the Socialist Left opposing further exploration and the Greens, on course for seven MPs, demanding a halt to production by 2035.

Climate change and economic inequality dominated the election campaign after the publication last month of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s stark warning that global heating is dangerously close to spiralling out of control.

Støre, who said he had a “good feeling” as he voted at a central Oslo school on Sunday, has rejected the Green party’s ultimatum and expressed reluctance to enter government with the Red party, projected to have eight MPs. The Centre party is also not keen on a formal coalition with the Socialist Left.

Solberg’s Conservatives won a projected 37 seats, eight down on 2017, with their coalition partners, the Christian Democrats, and the anti-immigrant Progress party, which left government in 2019, also shedding MPs.

Both the Conservative party, whose centre-right coalition has ruled Norway for eight years, and Labour advocate a gradual withdrawal from oil and gas, which account for 14% of Norway’s GDP and 40% of exports, provide 160,000 direct jobs and have helped the country build up a €1.2tn (£1tn) sovereign wealth fund.

They argue that oil firms need time to adapt their engineering prowess to pursue green technologies. “I believe that calling time on our oil and gas industry is the wrong industrial policy and the wrong climate policy,” Støre said after voting.

“The demand for oil is on a downward path. We don’t need to decree it, but instead [use the revenues] to build bridges to future activities,” Labour’s energy spokesman, Espen Barth Eide, told Agence-France Presse.

Observers have said potential coalition divisions over the question could result in a compromise that would entail excluding some waters for future oil exploration, particularly in the Arctic.

Another possible bone of contention in a left-leaning coalition is Europe, with Norway’s membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) strongly favoured by Labour but opposed by the Eurosceptic Centre party, the Socialist Left and the Reds.

Støre has said his government would focus on cutting the country’s CO2 emissions in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement, but rejects any ultimatum on energy policy.


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