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Norwegians began voting in several major cities during parliamentary elections that are expected to bring the center-left opposition to power after a race dominated by the future of oil and the climate crisis.
Opinion polls suggest a convincing victory for the bloc led by the Labor Party. Such an outcome would put an end to an unprecedented eight years of middle-right rule in the rich, oil-producing Scandinavian nation. But it is unclear how many parties will enter parliament and what forms part of a new government.
The official election day is Monday, but voting took place on Sunday in the capital Oslo, the most important oil city of Stavanger and the Arctic city of Bodo. More than a third of voters have already cast their ballots in advance.
The future of oil in the largest petroleum producer in Western Europe dominated the run-up to the polls, as small parties from Norway demanded that Norway take more dramatic steps to combat climate change. The Greens said they would only support a coalition that would stop all investigations into the fossil fuel immediately.
Victory means a center-left prime minister in all five Nordic countries simultaneously for the first time since 1959 and would justify Jonas Gahr Store, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Health, after his defeat in the previous elections in 2017. Store is the favorite for at the head of the next Norwegian government.
“He’s going to be a strong prime minister with a long-term vision for the future. He knows the oil and energy transition well. And in this complicated world, it is also important that he has international experience. “People will be confident if Putin picks up the phone,” former Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide told the Financial Times.
Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg is the first center-right leader in modern Norwegian history to serve two full terms, but polls have suggested that the strength of the smaller parties on the left-wing Store will enable her to form a coalition and her to deprive.
In the last major poll for state broadcaster NRK, the left was on course to win 100 seats in parliament with 169 seats, while right-wing parties would take the rest. Store’s coalition of Labor, the rural center party and the socialist left are predicted to be on the verge of a majority with 84 seats. According to the poll, Labor is the largest single party with about a quarter of the vote, compared to a fifth for the Conservatives.
If the three main center-left parties fall short, Store needs the support of either the Communist Red Party or the Greens, who he has both criticized for their desire to set an end date for oil production.
“Closing an industry like Red and the Greens is like throwing people into the sea and then throwing them into the lifeline. “This is a high-risk game and a backward climate policy,” Store told the newspaper Dagbladet.
Some political observers believe a possible compromise could be to limit or even end the exploration of oil in the Norwegian North Pole. In any case, companies are turning their backs on the Barents Sea area after disappointing research results.
Eide, Labor’s spokesman for energy, said Labor was aware that the oil era was coming to an end, but believed in a gradual transition from petroleum to a greener economy. He added that companies appear to be exploring near their current fields in the Norwegian and North Seas rather than in the Arctic.
‘It is increasingly likely that there will not be much [oil] in the Barents Sea. . . It is perhaps better to find things that are closer to the existing production, ”he added.
The election campaign was low until the release of a major UN climate report last month, with the organisation’s secretary general warning that it was now ‘red’ for humanity.
Environmental parties such as the Greens, the Socialist Left and the center-right liberals have all benefited from an increase in opinion polls following the publication of the report, while the center-left oil party has experienced a steady decline in recent months.
Both the Labor Party and the Conservative Party support the oil industry, but believe that its importance to Norway will diminish as production declines in the coming decades.
Labor believed that the center-right government was too slow in the transition to a green economy, and that the left would have a more interventionist industrial policy, Eide said.
Norway provides generous subsidies for electric cars, which now account for almost three-quarters of new vehicle sales, and invest heavily in expensive carbon capture and storage. But neighboring Denmark was much more successful in the larger wind turbine industry by manufacturer Vestas and developer Orsted.