By Sveinung Sleire
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg strengthened her power base as the Liberal Party agreed to join her minority coalition.
The new government will be built on a “broader center-right platform,” Solberg said Sunday at a televised press conference in Moss, south of Oslo.
“We are seeing more polarized landscape in many countries with parties refusing to take responsibility,” she said. “What we are doing now is finding solutions that are good for Norway and for people.”
After almost two weeks of talks, which were interrupted by a trip to visit U.S. President Donald Trump, Solberg managed to coax the Liberals into government, bringing her a step closer to her goal of uniting the four-party center-right bloc of Norwegian politics. The new minority government will still need support from the Christian Democrats or other parties to get legislation and spending bills through parliament.
The expanded coalition comes after Solberg’s Conservatives and the right-wing Progress Party in September won renewed support for a second term after steering the economy of western Europe’s biggest oil producer through a downturn after oil prices crashed.
The premier is showing political skill in forging a new coalition with the Liberals and her partner over the past four years, the anti-immigration Progress Party. The Liberals, which acted as support party over the previous term, said the new government will be greener, more generous and more “social liberal.”
Progress Party leader Siv Jensen said the government will continue cutting taxes and keep up spending on infrastructure while keeping a tight lid on immigration.
The government’s platform vowed to stick to the country’s fiscal policy rule, which regulates how much can be used of the nation’s $1 trillion wealth fund. The government will continue to strengthen Norway’s mainland economy to ease the country away from a dependence on oil, while meeting Norway’s climate commitments, it said.
As part of the deal reached on Sunday, the government won’t move to open the long- contested areas off the Lofoten islands to oil exploration until at least 2021 and avoid exploration along the “ice edge.” in Arctic. The new government will ensure “profitable” oil and gas production, according to the platform.