Norway poll winner faces uphill coalition struggle

Norway poll winner faces uphill coalition struggle

OSLO - Norway's election winner Erna Solberg on Tuesday faced an uphill struggle to cobble together a workable alliance set to include the anti-immigration right.

The 52-year-old career politician, also known as "Iron Erna", led her Conservative Party to victory in Monday's vote alongside three other centre-right parties, putting an end to eight years of centre-left rule.

"Everybody has understood that they won't get to implement their entire programme," Solberg told reporters Tuesday about the upcoming talks on forming a new government.

"Everybody must negotiate. Everybody must give and take," she added.

A four-party centre-right bloc won 96 seats in the 169-seat parliament, while the incumbent three-party centre-left coalition ended up with 72 seats. Anan independent environmental party got one seat.

Jens Stoltenberg, 54, Norway's prime minister since 2005, conceded defeat late Monday, telling supporters that he would seek his government's resignation in mid-October, after presenting the national budget for next year.

This will leave Solberg with the challenge of forging a government with the support of four parties that span the entire half of Norway's political spectrum from the moderate centre to the populist, immigration-sceptic right.

"Erna Solberg has to reconcile the almost irreconcilable positions of very different parties," the daily Verdens Gang said in an editorial.

"She has to build trust and unity, not just among the four party leaders and their closest aides, but among party cultures that can come across as more or less incompatible."

The populist Progress Party may end up as a paradoxical beneficiary of the election despite losing 12 seats, ending up with 29, and dropping one spot to the third-largest party in parliament.

The Progress Party's participation is considered essential if the Conservatives are to form a government, giving it the chance of taking part in a cabinet for the first time in its 40-year history.

"We are going to negotiate a platform for the government, and we have said throughout the campaign that we wanted to have a serious footprint on the platform," said Progress Party leader Siv Jensen late Monday.

Or, as the Aftenposten daily said in a headline: "Election loser can become winner in government."

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