Norway's Conservatives to Form Minority Government
OSLO--Norway's incoming Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg said Monday she would negotiate a two-party minority government with the right-wing Progress Party, and promised tax cuts and more infrastructure spending.
"This means that the Conservatives and the Progress Party will start negotiations," Ms. Solberg, who is set to become Norway's second-ever female prime minister, told reporters at a press conference in the parliament. Ms. Solberg had aimed to form a four-party government, but two other parties--the Liberals and Christian Democrats--declined to join. However, the Liberals and Christian Democrats agreed to support the new government in parliament.
The four parties agreed on a platform to reduce wealth and inheritance taxes, increase infrastructure spending and establish a state-owned road-construction company. They also agreed to spend no more than 4% annually of the country's $ 780 billion oil fund--on top of the regular budget.
The spending level would depend on the situation of the Norwegian economy, the parties agreed in a detailed document, but "increased use of oil money will to a larger degree be used for investments in knowledge, infrastructure and tax cuts to stimulate growth."
The four parties also agreed to boost the country's preparedness and hire more police officers, two years after the July 22, 2011, terror attacks in which 77 people, mostly youths, were killed in a bomb attack and shooting spree. The perpetrator had been a member of the Progress Party many years earlier but had quit because it didn't share his extreme anti-immigration views.
The right-wing Progress Party's inclusion in the government for the first time has been controversial because of the party's tough stance on immigration policy and a string of populist initiatives in the past. The party has recently attempted to tone down its rhetoric.
"We've achieved a lot, but I think that's also true for the others," said Progress Party leader Siv Jensen, adding that the party had won support for its initiatives on elder care, road construction and immigration.
Representatives of the Christian Democrats and the Liberals had previously warned that they were unlikely to serve in a government that included the Progress Party, but they had also pledged to help form a non-Socialist government. The outgoing center-left government of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has ruled for eight years.
Christian Democratic Party leader Knut Arild Hareide said the "political distance" was too great for his party to join the government, but he also said the party had won some victories in immigration policy and elder care. "The 5.6% who voted for the Christian Democrats in these elections definitely got their money's worth."
Liberal Party leader Trine Skei Grande said she would prefer to work in parliament for the coming period, and that her party also had scored victories, including delaying oil drilling in a vulnerable area in northern Norway.
"We have now stopped the [environmental assessment of oil drilling] in Lofoten and Vesteralen," Ms. Grande said.
Norway's new government will be formally appointed after the outgoing government presents the 2014 national budget on Oct. 14.
Write to Kjetil Malkenes Hovland at firstname.lastname@example.org
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