Battle between past and future in Norway

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Battle between past and future in Norway

janerik larssonJANERIK LARSSON
Senior adviser, Free Enterprise Foundation, Stockholm, and Prime PR, Stockholm

The leader of the Norwegian Center Party, Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, recently received a not entirely unexpected gift on his birthday. The party he has led since 2014 and which was then in crisis, is today the country’s largest, according to the latest opinion poll. The same survey showed that the Center Party (Senterpartiet –Sp) is larger than any other of Norway’s political parties in all constituencies, except in the larger cities, where the Labor Party (Arbeiderpartiet – Ap) continues to lead.

There will be elections to the Storting, the Norwegian parliament, on Sept. 13 next year, and there is already speculation in the Norwegian media whether the success of Vedum will make him prime minister.

Jonas Gahr Støre has led the Labor Party since the current NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg resigned as prime minister after the election loss in 2013. Then, since 2005, the party had led a coalition with the Center Party and the Socialist Left Party (Sosialistisk Venstreparti – SV).

Erna Solberg has led the Conservative Party (Høyre – H) since 2004 and has been prime minister since 2013. With impressive skill, she has handled some tricky conservative coalition parties, which has meant either a minority government or a majority government. Now the opinion figures point very clearly toward a change of government, as two of Solberg’s supporting parties risk not making it into the Storting.

So the question is now being asked whether Vedum, who is more of a people’s candidate type of politician than Støre, will become head of government. Vedum stands for the strong European Union (EU) opposition that has characterized the Center Party since the first referendum on EU membership in 1972. In 1994, the voters again said no. In both referendums, there was a yes majority in some metropolitan districts where the Labor Party or the Conservatives usually dominate. The United Kingdom is Norway’s largest trading partner, and Brexit means that Vedum has indicated that the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement should be reviewed. On the other hand, it is unlikely that the Labor Party would jeopardize the Norwegian EU relationship.

In the Norwegian debate right now, the many small municipalities and the demands for municipal mergers are at the center. A state inquiry has shed some light on the conditions in small rural municipalities with increasingly older inhabitants and increasing demands for care and service. The resulting inefficiency is expensive, says Erna Solberg, but Trygve Slagsvold Vedum shows no understanding for this. Everything should be as before.

Frithjof Jacobsen, political editor of the newspaper Dagens Næringsliv, has dubbed the Center Party and the Progress Party (Fremskirttspartiet – FrP) as Norway’s most prominent protest parties. The message of both parties is that things were better in the past. According to Jacobsen, they have found support in the daily newspaper Nordlys, northern Norway’s largest newspaper, where the newspaper’s political editor, Skjalg Fjellheim, reacts to the younger generations, who, instead of sticking to tradition and well-known conditions, have fall into an “unrealistic infatuation with urban ideas.”

It seems that the oil and gas wealth has a blinding effect, in a Norway that right now needs to look ahead. It may not only be in Sweden where there is a risk of people relying too much on former days of glory.

Janerik Larsson is one of the most experienced public affairs advisers in Sweden. He is an acclaimed journalist, editor-in-chief, business leader, and communication adviser. In 1980, he was awarded with the prestigious Stora Journalistpriset for his work. Larsson is a former executive vice president of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv). Between 1995 and 1999, he was the executive vice president for Industriförvaltnings AB Kinnevik. In addition, he was editor-in-chief for the SAF-tidningen (a business weekly published by the Swedish Employers’ Confederation), and an editorial writer for Sydsvenska Dagbladet. Since 2010, Larsson has been working as a senior adviser at Prime. He serves as a senior adviser to Stiftelsen Fritt Näringsliv and contributes regularly to the op-ed page of Svenska Dagbladet.

Translated by Lori Ann Reinhall

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 15, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.