STAVANGER, Norway — The leader of Norway’s Conservative Party announced that she is forming a right-wing minority government, the first in the oil-rich country to ever include the anti-immigration Progress Party.
The two-party coalition is expected to tighten immigration policies. Many in Norway, which is widely considered to be a tolerant, liberal country — have called for a reduction in immigration, and the Progress Party has capitalized on that.
Erna Solberg, whose Conservatives finished second in this month’s parliamentary election, will team up with the Progress Party, which came in third. Solberg praised her party’s cooperation with the Progress Party but left the door open for the two smaller center-right parties — the Christian Democrats and Liberals — to join the coalition, saying she is eager to work with them, too.
“Now the Conservatives and the Progress Party start real negotiations on the government platform. This is the start of a committed relationship,” Solberg told reporters in parliament on Monday.
In the Sept. 9 national election, the Conservatives and the nation’s three center-right parties won a majority, but only the Progress Party agreed to team up with the Conservatives. Progress Party leader Siv Jensen said it hopes to tighten the nation’s asylum policies, secure more rights for the elderly and reduce Norway’s inheritance tax.
The new government is scheduled to take office on October 14.
It will replace a moderate but left-leaning coalition led by the Labor Party, headed by outgoing Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. It has governed Norway for eight years, and Labor will remain the largest party in parliament.
Post-war, right-wing coalitions have often been fractious and fallen apart in Norway, as they did in 1986, 1990 and 2000. If the current one doesn’t last, the Labor Party could quickly reclaim power, as it has three times since 1986.
Pro-Israel groups often accuse liberal Norway of being unfairly biased toward the Palestinians. “The degree of anti-Israelism in Norway today on the state level, in the media, in the trade unions and at the universities, colleges and schools is unprecedented in modern Norwegian history,” a prominent Norwegian historian and self-described “social pundit,” Hanne Nabintu Herland, said last year at a lecture in Jerusalem. “The powerful individuals that have pushed for these negative and biased attitudes in Norway are today responsible for creating a politically-correct hatred towards Israel.”
At the time, Norway’s deputy head of mission in Tel Aviv, Vebjørn Dysvik, rejected these claims yet admitted ordinary Norwegians have a mainly negative view of Israel. Initially, Oslo was a staunch supporter of the Jewish state, he said. But in the 1970s and 1980s, things changed: Israel captured and occupied the West Bank and, in 1978, invaded south Lebanon. “The occupation of the Palestinians is the defining factor in the relationship between Norway and Israel,” Dysvik said.
In a Times of Interview in June, former Norwegian prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik said Oslo has no preference in the Middle East conflict. “The official Norwegian view still is balanced — we see both sides,” he said. “I have always looked upon myself as a friend of Israel, but on the other hand you can also be friends with the Palestinians.”
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.