Polls suggest a clear majority is emerging to unseat Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s centre-right government.
Norway’s centre-left opposition parties are on course to win the country’s parliamentary election, in which debate has centred on economic inequality and climate change, projections showed as voting ended on Monday.
Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Stoere is widely expected to form the next government, either governing in a minority or together with several other parties, thus bringing to a close Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s eight years in power.
Nearly 3.9 million Norwegians were eligible to vote. More than 42 percent of the electorate voted in advance.
But to form a viable cabinet, Stoere must convince potential centre-left partners to compromise on policies ranging from oil and private ownership to Norway’s EU relations.
Norway’s status as a major oil and gas producer has been at the heart of the campaign, although a transition away from petroleum – and the jobs it creates – is likely to be a gradual one despite progress by pro-environment parties.
“The demand for oil is on a downward path. This is happening by itself, by market forces. We don’t need to decree it … but instead build bridges to future activities,” Labour’s energy chief Espen Barth Eide told AFP news agency.
“We will continue to have oil activities but we have to admit that the best oil years are behind us,” he said.
With over 65 percent of the votes counted, Labour and four other centre-left parties could swing to a combined majority of 100 seats, up from 81 currently, the Directorate of Elections projected.
A minimum of 85 seats is required to win a majority in the 169-seat parliament.
If the projections prove correct, Stoere could form a majority of Labour, the Centre Party and the Socialist Left, on track for a combined 89 seats, and avoid having to work with the Marxist Red Party or the anti-oil Greens.
Getting the rural-based Centre Party and the mostly urban Socialists to govern together could be hard enough however, as the two take different views on a range of issues from oil to taxes.
Governing in a minority could also be an option for Labour. Stoere said his government would focus on cutting CO2 emissions in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement, but has rejected any ultimatum over energy policy.
The Labour leader has pledged to address inequality if he wins.
Stoere is a former civil servant who was elected to the Stortinget in 2009. He also served as foreign minister from 2005-2013 under then-Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and took over the reins of the party when Stoltenberg became NATO’s secretary general.