Norway’s center-right to start government talks

OSLO, Norway (AP) — Erna Solberg, poised to become oil-rich Norway’s new prime minister after a landslide victory in the country’s parliamentary elections, faces tough negotiations with three other center-right parties to form a government.

Solberg said Tuesday she aims to form a broad coalition government that comprises her Conservative Party, the anti-immigration Progress Party, the Liberal Party and the Christian Democrats.

The latter two parties have said they would not join a government including the Progress Party, although their positions have softened recently. Still, Solberg’s party could end up forming a minority government with the Progress Party alone.

“Many difficult negotiations are ahead, but nothing will be done in secret in a back room,” Solberg told reporters outside her apartment block home Tuesday morning.

“Everybody must give and take but that is what coalition governments are all about,” she added.

Norway’s oil wealth helped it withstand Europe’s financial crisis and retain low unemployment throughout previous Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s eight years in power. Still, the Conservative Party defeated his ruling coalition, securing 48 of the total 169 seats in parliament, amid pledges to increase the availability of private health care and cut taxes on assets over $140,000.

The Progress Party got 29 seats, the Christian Democrats 10 and the Liberal Party nine.

Analysts say the four parties will particularly struggle to agree on energy, foreign aid and immigration.

The Liberal Party and the Christian Democrats want liberal immigration policies while the Progress Party wants to limit the influx of immigrants. Additionally, the Conservative Party and the Progress Party want to explore possibilities to expand oil exploration in an area off the coast of northern Norway, while the other two parties want to protect the natural environment.

“It is very hard to imagine these four parties presenting a joint declaration of government,” said TV2′s political commentator Jan-Erik Larsen.

Hanne Skartveit, political editor at the newspaper VG, said she thinks a four-party coalition is possible.

She said the Progress Party has softened its anti-immigrant stance “immensely” in recent years and is not an “extreme anti-immigrant party as we know them from the rest of Europe.”

Outgoing Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s Labor Party remained the biggest single party in the election with 55 seats, but only got a total of 72 seats together with its partners, the Socialist Party and the Center Party.

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Rising reported from Stockholm. David MacDougall in Oslo contributed to this report.

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