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Conservatives hopeful as Norwegians vote

Polls close in Norway as early indications show the country has voted the Conservative Party into power.

Last Modified: 09 Sep 2013 20:15
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Norwegians have been casting their ballots in a parliamentary election that could see the power in the oil-rich nation shift for the first time since 2005 to a centre-right coalition, including an anti-immigration party.

Despite Norway's strong economy and low unemployment, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's centre-left coalition has been trailing in opinion polls for months and it looks likely that Monday's election will see a swing to the right.

The Conservative Party, headed by Erna Solberg, has seen a surge in support amid pledges to increase the availability of private health care and cut taxes on assets more than $140,000.

A partial count of Monday's parliamentary election indicated a centre-right coalition led by the Conservative Party will take power.

The forecast by Statistics Norway, based on a quarter of the vote, suggests Conservative Party leader Erna Solberg will become the new prime minister, replacing Jens Stoltenberg of the Labor Party.

As she voted in the morning, Solberg said she had "been working for four years, intensively to build a wider and stronger platform for the Conservative Party".

The conservatives have said, for the first time, that they are prepared to form a coalition government with the anti-immigration Progress Party, which appears to have lost support since 2009 but is still the third largest party in Norway.

It may also seek the support of the Liberal Party and the Christian Democrats.

The forecast, published as polls closed on Monday, showed the Conservative Party got 26.2 percent of the votes.

Together with its potential coalition allies, the anti-immigration Progress Party, the Liberal Party and the Christian Democrats, it was forecast to get 52.8 percent of the votes.

The Labor Party was expected to remain the biggest single party, with 30.7 percent of the votes.

'Institutional failures'

Norway's oil has helped it to withstand Europe's financial crisis, and has allowed it to create an investment fund for the country's future that is now worth around $750bn.

One political expert said Stoltenberg's main challenge on Monday was simply that he had been in power for so long.


"I call it government fatigue. The Labor coalition has been in power for eight years and one would expect that some voters now think it is time for a change," Frank Aarebrot, professor of comparative politics at the
University of Bergen, said.

This is the first parliamentary election since Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in 2011.

Thirty-three survivors of the massacre on Utoya island, mostly teen members of the Labor Party youth wing, are seeking national office in the election.

Stoltenberg was admired for his calm demeanour after the 2011 terror acts and there was a short-lived boost in support for his Labor Party.

But last year a report criticising Norwegian police for a litany of institutional failures before and during the attacks dented his government's prestige.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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