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Erna Solberg’s long reign as head of Norway could end as the Scandinavian country faces its first general election since 2017 on Monday.

Solberg’s coalition of right-wing and center-right parties – which has operated as a minority government since 2020 – is likely to be overshadowed by a left-wing coalition led by Jonas Gahr Støre, a millionaire ally of the former prime minister and now NATO secretary. -General Jens Stoltenberg.

Solberg, first elected in 2013 and again in 2017, has led the Tories since 2004 and is now the country’s longest-serving leader. Due to the length of her tenure and her commitment to economic liberalism, she was nicknamed “Iron Erna” in honor of British leader Margaret Thatcher.

Although Norway has fared relatively well during the COVID-19 pandemic, with one of the lowest death rates in Europe, Solberg’s popularity has taken a hit due to unpopular public sector reforms and economic inequalities. She was also criticized – and fined by the police – for breaking social distancing guidelines at his own birthday party in April.

Norway’s constitution prohibits early elections, so even if a coalition collapses, its largest party continues to rule as a minority government for the remainder of its term.

Solberg has been doing this since 2020 when the Populist Progress Party withdrew in a row on the repatriation of a woman and her children linked to the Islamic State.

Current polls show that Støre’s Labor Party won 49 seats and Solberg’s Tories 45, well below the 85 seats needed to secure a majority.

It would be up to Labor to form a government, possibly encompassing the socialist left (which is expected to win 11 seats) and the Center Party (which would likely win 19).

This leaves Støre with 79 seats, still short but capable of forming a minority government. If he wants a majority, he will have to seek the support of even smaller parties, including the Communists and the Greens, both of whom should be added to their current lone MP.

Rude awakening

In addition to the growing rift between rich and poor, a key issue for any new red-green coalition will be the Norwegian oil industry, which contributes up to 14% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs over 160,000 people. .

The Greens have publicly stated that they want to end the oil industry by 2035, and this is not an extreme view in this country of 5.3 million people, which is the largest producer. Western European Oil: Recent polls have shown that 35% of Norwegians would favor the end of the oil industry.

Even the International Energy Agency (IEA) believes that the exploration of new fossil fuels must be stopped if we want to control global warming.

Neither Stolberg nor Støre have pledged to stop oil exploration – let alone shut down the Norwegian oil industry – but their potential coalition partners have.

Like the Greens, the socialist left wants to put an end to oil. On the right, the liberals also made such a promise, AFP reported.

“Oil has its place in the museum,” Ulrikke Torgersen, the Greens’ candidate for Stavanger, the hub of the country’s oil industry, told AFP.

“We have benefited from it for several decades, but unfortunately we see that it is destroying our climate. “

But oil industry representatives and lobbyists counter that the Norwegian oil industry is actually relatively environmentally friendly in that it emits a low level of carbon dioxide compared to other oil-producing countries. And while there is no realistic alternative to oil, Norway should keep drilling for it.

“It would be paradoxical to stop the production of hydrocarbons which have the lowest CO2 footprint at a time when the planet still needs them,” said Anniken Hauglie, head of the oil lobby Norsk Olje & Gass.

“We must first give up other types of fossil fuels, especially coal.”

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euronews Gt