After Norway election, Labor leader poised to become new PM

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CORRECTS BYLINE TO JAVAD PARSA, NOT HEIKO JUNGE – Labor leader Jonas Gahr Stoere holds a bouquet of red roses at the Labor Party’s election vigil for the 2021 parliamentary elections at the People’s House in Oslo, Norway on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. The center-left bloc headed to a victory in Norway’s elections Monday as official projections pointed to the governing Conservatives losing power after a campaign dominated by climate change and the future of the country’s oil and gas exploration industry. (Javad Parsa/NTB via AP)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The leader of Norway’s Labor Party will start talks Tuesday in an attempt to build a coalition after the center-left bloc beat the incumbent Conservatives and won Norway’s general election.

With all votes now counted, the Labor Party and its two left-leaning allies — the Socialist Left and the euroskeptic Center Party — grabbed 100 seats in the 169-seat Stortinget assembly while the current government would get 68. The last seat is going to a northern Norway health-focused protest party, Pasientfokus.

The outgoing assembly was 88-81 in favor of the center-right led by Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who was ousted after two four-year terms in the job. Her party also suffered a huge loss of nine seats.

Monday’s result means that currently all five Nordic countries now have left-leaning governments.

Jonas Gahr Stoere, the Labor leader, said he would start talks with Norway’s third largest group, the Center Party, and its leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum. That party made the largest gain and grabbed nine seats. Gahr Stoere, who is poised to become prime minister, also will meet the media later.

Solberg said later Tuesday that she would continue at the head of a caretaker government and step down when “a new government is ready.” Solberg would also continue as leader of the Conservatives.

The election campaign had focused on the North Sea oil and gas that has helped make Norway one of the world’s wealthiest countries. But fears about climate change have put the future of the industry in doubt. The country’s biggest industry is responsible for over 40% of exports and directly employs more than 5% of the workforce.

On the other hand, Norwegians are among the most climate-conscious consumers in the world, with most new car purchases now being electric.

Most of Norway’s oil and gas still comes from mature areas in the North Sea, but most of the country’s untapped reserves are in the Barents Sea, above the Arctic Circle. That is a red line for environmentalists, who could play a crucial role in securing a majority government.

Any post-election horse trading is likely to be fraught for the Labor Party — Norway’s largest party — and Gahr Stoere. The Socialist Left won’t offer its support lightly and the Center Party is also demanding a more aggressive approach toward shifting to renewable energy.

Labor has promised an industrial policy that will funnel support to new green industries, like wind power, “blue hydrogen” that uses natural gas to produce an alternative fuel, and carbon capture and storage, which seeks to bury carbon dioxide under the ocean.

Gahr Stoere is a 61-year-old former civil servant. He also owns a large part of his family’s company, and most the fortune there comes from the sale in 1977 of a Norwegian company that made cast iron stoves and fireplaces.

He also served as foreign minister from 2005-2013 under then-Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. He took over the reins of the party when Stoltenberg became NATO secretary general.

Nearly 3.9 million Norwegians were eligible and more than 1.6 million of them voted in advance, according to Norway’s election commission. Turnout was 76.5%, down from more than 78% last time.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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