Norway's centre-left opposition, headed by Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Store, won the general election after a campaign dominated by climate change and the future of the country’s oil and gas exploration industry.
Norway's Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg, in power for eight years, has conceded after being defeated in the general election, as the Scandinavian country swung leftward.
On her way to the podium to deliver her concession speech, Solberg told reporters that she had called the head of the Labour Party to congratulate him on his victory.
The first official projection earlier indicated that the center-left bloc in Norway appeared to have won after a campaign dominated by climate change and the future of the country’s oil and gas exploration industry.
“Now we can say it: We did it,” the head of the Labor Party, Jonas Gahr Stoere, told a cheering and clapping crowd.
Based on a preliminary count of nearly 52% of the votes, the projection indicated the Labor Party and its two allies, the Socialist Left and the eurosceptic Centre Party, would get a total of 101 seats in the 169-seat Stortinget assembly.
The current government would get 67.
Store is expected to become next prime minister
The Labour Party and Store, who will in all likelihood become the next prime minister, could possibly even win an absolute majority in parliament with its preferred allies, the Centre Party and the Socialist Left.
That would eliminate the need to rely on the support of the two other opposition parties, the Greens and the communist Red Party and facilitate Store's coalition-building negotiations, which already promise to be long and thorny.
"These results look very very promising, of course they're still counting the final results but assuming that the prognosis is right, it looks like there is a very strong mandate for change," Labour's energy chief Espen Barth Eide told AFP.
The possibility of a three-party coalition is "exactly the outcome we were hoping for and that means we can start negotiating in the coming days."
Radical right vote declines for the third election in a row in Norway, to lowest level in nearly 20 years https://t.co/HlclqJQvn8— Rob Ford (@robfordmancs) September 13, 2021
The Greens had said they would only support a left-wing government if it vowed an immediate end to oil exploration in Norway, Western Europe's biggest oil producer.
Store has rejected that ultimatum.
A 61-year-old who campaigned against social inequality, Store has, like the Conservatives, called for a gradual transition away from the oil economy.
The August "code red for humanity" report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put the issue at the top of the agenda for the election campaign and forced the country to reflect on the oil that has made it immensely rich.
The report energised those who want to get rid of oil, both on the left and, to a lesser extent, the right.
The oil sector accounts for 14 percent of Norway's gross domestic product, as well as 40 percent of its exports and 160,000 direct jobs.
In addition, the cash cow has helped the country of 5.4 million people amass the world's biggest sovereign wealth fund, today worth close to 12 trillion kroner (almost 1.2 trillion euros, $1.4 trillion).
A former minister in the governments of Jens Stoltenberg between 2005 and 2013, Store is now expected to begin negotiations with the Centre, which primarily defends the interests of its rural base, and the Socialist Left, which is a strong advocate for environmental issues.
The trio, which already governed together in Stoltenberg's coalitions, often have diverging positions, notably on the pace at which to exit the oil industry.
The Centrists have also said they would not form a coalition with the Socialist Left.
"I want a society that is more fair, with opportunities for all, and where we try to put everyone to work. That's the number one priority," Store said Monday, also calling for a "fair climate policy.”
"We will take all the time we need to talk to the other parties," he said just before the first projections were released.
Solberg steered the country for eight years, a record for the Conservatives, and through multiple crises, including migration, dropping oil prices and the Covid pandemic.