What happens when Norway — a Scandinavian country whose government provides its citizens a lifestyle that includes the world’s highest measures of quality in health care, education, labor standards and wages — holds elections?
The answer is, something of a muddle, because the country’s large number of political parties, reflecting the freedom and general democracy and equality of life there, means that any government resulting from elections will be a coalition, confusing to outsiders in its diversity.
Thus, the Norwegian elections of earlier this month. There were 24 political parties involved, contesting the 169 seats in Norway’s parliament. Elections are quadrennial, by law, with snap elections, such as the one that brought about the weakening of British Prime Minister Theresa May, not permitted under the constitution. Eight parties gained seats in a 3.8 million, 78.2 percent turnout among Norway’s 5.3 million population.
The issues included immigration, the use of Norway’s $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund and the country’s relationship with the European Union. It voted in 1994 not to join the E.U. but remains a member of the European Economic Area, whose members work closely with the E.U.
Norway’s previous government, elected in 2013, won again, and Prime Minister Erna Solberg likely will lead the country for another four years. Her coalition will be based on her Conservative Party, which received 25 percent of the vote, and the Progress Party, with 15.2 percent of the vote, with the cooperation of several smaller parties. The opposition Labor Party received the most votes, with 27.4 percent.
Norway’s parties’ names do not necessarily reflect their positions on issues. Labor members are considered social democrats. The Progressives are populists. Solberg’s Conservatives are center-right. The Center Party, which received 10.3 percent of the vote, is left-wing in its views. Norway even has a Pirate Party, which received a sliver of votes.
The main issues facing Norway’s likely continuing coalition government will be the dwindling of its oil revenue, due to supply and world prices, placing increased pressure on its sovereign wealth fund; its immigration policies; and relations with neighboring Russia. Norway has taken a generous approach to immigration in the past, but that policy will be increasingly challenged by reduced resources and pressure on the government from the political right. A reduction in the wars and in the poverty that continues to plague the global south could ease that pressure, but there is little sign that will occur.
In the meantime, with occasional glitches, Norwegians are able to continue to live well and to act with generosity with respect to the less-privileged world in which they live.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE