The Norwegian Conservative Party didn’t win the election. It doesn’t even have a relative majority—the Labor Party is still hanging on in there. But the sum of nominally conservative representatives is now greater than the sum of nominally socialist representatives, so they’re going to try to scrape together a coalition. Unfortunately, they can’t do so without the support of the brownshirts in the Progress Party, who did very badly in the election—losing a third of their parliament seats—but have petulantly threatened to sabotage any conservative coalition they’re not invited to join.

Said brownshirts are trying very hard to pretend that they’re not really brownshirts, and local and national media are mostly willing to accept that. International media, less so. Some of them have latched onto the fact that Anders Behring Breivik was once a member, which is unfair in the sense that he was never a party official or an elected representative or even a candidate and the Progress Party has never advocated violence. It is, however, spot on in the sense that several prominent members of the Progress Party have repeatedly and unrepentently expressed the same extremist philosophy, and even dabbled in victim blaming. Come election season, Progress Party candidates wring their hands and shed crocodile tears and point to their party program, which carefully wraps the issue in euphemisms about tradition and culture, and call their detractors liars and bullies.

The Conservative Party is now desperately trying to whitewash its brownshirt allies so it can realize its dream of forming the first conservative government in eight years, and the first in 23 years to be led by the Conservative Party. Frankly, it seem a bit too desperate—especially when you consider the fact that it’s in a better position now than the last time it formed a government without the Progress Party.

The Progress Party is effectively trying to blackmail its way into the coalition, and unfortunately, it’s likely to succeed. But I think it’s in for a rude awakening—and given its habitual intransigence, I think the odds are good that the coalition will crumble well before the next election. Fingers crossed.

4 thoughts on “Backpedaling”

  1. I haven’t done the calculation on the old numbers, but I doubt the conservative party is worse off than last time they were in government. Absolute numbers can be deceiving, you have to look at winning coalitions.

    Under the present division of seats, Conservative + Progress just need support from one of the following to form a majority (in rough order of likelihood):
    * Liberal
    * Christian Democrats
    * Centre
    * Labour
    * Left + Greens.

    They can seek that from case to case, or in coalition with one of the two closest ones. Compare the previous government, of Left, Labour and Centre: They need support from one of the following:
    * Christian Democrats + Liberal
    * Conservatives
    * Progress

    The centre coalition without Progress is even more hopeless. Even with both Conservatives and Centre in it, they’d need support from either Progress or Labour from case to case. What’s in that for the Conservatives?

    So the right-wing coalition is unlikely to crumble. If CD or Lib enter into the coalition, they will have little bargaining power because each is replaceable by the other (you can see Lib try to avoid this dilemma by insisting on going on government with CD or not at all – effectively a coalition within the coalition). The only thing I see toppling it is extreme brinkmansship from Progress, and eh, maybe under Hagen. Unlikely under Jensen.

    It’s a nice example that share of seats in parliament is not equal to share in power, as the political science concept of power indices explains. In the extreme case, where your party’s votes in parliament are never decisive no matter how the votes split, you have zero power. The Greens were very close to that, even though they got one representative; in the end they got a minuscule amount of power because they can be decisive when Left, Progress and Conservatives agree on an issue and the other non-Greens are against (you can imagine how often that happens).

    1. I didn’t say they were worse off than before. On the contrary. They have more seats in parliament than they had during Bondevik II. The only thing that’s changed is that the brownshirts are blackmailing them.

    2. BTW, the reason why I expect them to fail is not lack of support in Parliament, but quite simply because it will be a coalition of four parties with very little in common. Sooner or later, the brownshirts will say or do something the others can neither condone nor ignore nor cover up, or they will encounter a situation where they have to choose between loyalty to the coalition or loyalty to their voters.

  2. Yes, CD or Lib (or both) may leave the coalition eventually, but the most stable coalition would remain Conservatives + Progress. No other party has any strong incentive to call a vote of no confidence, because they can’t assemble a more viable alternative.

    Although it’s legal in Norway to call a non-constructive vote of no confidence, I don’t think it’s likely to happen.

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