Norway’s Labor Party on course for election win

Norway’s Labor Party was on its way to a clear victory in Monday’s parliamentary elections, beating incumbent Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s Conservatives with promises to improve public services and allow the country’s lucrative oil industry to continue drilling for decades.

According to the national broadcaster, the center-left Labor Party should win 48 of the 169 seats in parliament NRK, based on a count of around 98 percent of the vote.

Labor’s likely government partners – the center and the socialist left – were on their way to winning 28 and 13 seats respectively, meaning that a new three-party government would have 89 seats and a majority of four.

Solberg’s Conservatives and their allies were well on their way to winning 68 seats.

“We worked so hard and now we can finally say that we were successful,” Labor leader Jonas Gahr Støre told supporters. “The voters have made Labor Norway the largest party again.”

Gahr Støre is now in a strong position to form the next government and take on the role of Prime Minister with a mandate to increase public investment in areas such as education and health care.

“The welfare state must embrace everyone and provide good schools, world-class health services and generous care for our older people, no matter who they are and where they live,” Labor said called in the party platform before the election.

Like its social democratic sister parties across Scandinavia, the Norwegian Labor Party traditionally focused on building strong public services funded by comparatively high tax rates, and ruled Norway for much of the post-war period.

But the party has not been in power since 2013, when Solberg won over voters from the Conservatives with the promise of lower taxes and a more business-friendly regime.

Labor’s likely return to power in Norway underscores a revitalization of the political left in northern Europe, with left-wing leaders already leading the governments in the other four Nordic countries: Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland.

Ahead of Monday’s elections, it appeared that the coalition of Labor, the Socialist Left and the Center Party might miss a majority and would have to ask the Greens for support in parliament.

That, in turn, could have opened the door for the Greens to ask Norway to shut down its oil industry by 2035, a key element of the environmental party’s political platform. Labor’s plan is to keep the oil sector running beyond 2050. But when the results came on Monday night, the prospect of a greater Greens influence dwindled.

Gahr Støre said he would talk to other party leaders – both within his preferred coalition group and outside – about forming a government soon.

“The real job has yet to be done,” he said. “Now we will change Norway day by day and do it together.”

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