Prime Minister Erna Solberg became Norway’s first Conservative Party leader in over three decades to be re-elected as a movement to stop further oil exploration in
western Europe’s biggest petroleum producer fizzled.
“We won support for four more years because we have delivered on what we have promised and also because we have met tough challenges,” Solberg said at an election rally in Oslo shortly after midnight. “Our steady leadership has won the respect of the voters.”
An economic rebound and declining joblessness won over voters in Scandinavia’s richest nation. The 56-year-old, and the groups of lawmakers who support her, achieved a late summer comeback to stay in power after spending record amounts of oil wealth over the past four years to support the economy amid a slump in crude prices.
Backing for the Green Party, which called for an end to Norwegian petroleum exploration, failed to live up to projections it could emerge as a kingmaker, a development that’s likely to be a relief for the nation’s oil industry. Norwegians have been increasingly questioning how to reconcile their role as a major oil and gas producer with fighting climate change and whether searching for more petroleum will be profitable in a world where renewable energy is taking over more and more.
The result shows the power of the purse in European elections, after the trauma of the debt crisis and the political upheaval that followed. Solberg pumped money into an economy that a year after she first took office was pummeled by a slump in oil prices. Her stimulus program included becoming Norway’s first premier to take money directly from Norway’s almost $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund to increase the government’s budget.
Solberg defeated an opposition led by the Labor Party, whose leader Jonas Gahr Store struggled to win over an electorate suspicious of
his personal wealth and confused by his efforts to woo the center-right. As the results became
clear, Store told supporters the
election outcome was a “big disappointment,” but said he wished
Solberg luck, as he pledged to be “constructive” in opposition.