Solheim suffers setback

By Our Diplomatic Correspondent

Erik Solheim’s Socialist Left Party (SV) suffered a major setback at last Monday’s Norwegian parliamentary (Storting) elections.

The party lost four seats receiving only 6.1 per cent of the vote, a drop of 8.8 per cent from the polls in 2005. The party leader, current Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen, was disappointed over her party’s performance though happy that the left-centre coalition together got enough votes to remain in government.

Erik Solheim

For the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, it was a narrow win with 86 seats as against the opposition’s 83. However, his Labour Party (Ap), the main constituent in the coalition, won three additional seats bringing the total to 64. The third partner in the coalition, the Centre Party (Sp) won 11 seats.

Norwegian media reports have said that the Socialist Left Party may lose a ministerial portfolio. They have said the Labour Party may not need to listen as closely to their arguments on various issues.

Some reports even speculated that they may lose influence and be forced to drop out of the coalition. One report, however said, Halvorsen put on a brave face, saying she was “ready to continue” in the coalition. She had claimed that Labour did win because “people voted for Jens (PM).

The Socialist Left Party’s defeat leading to its influence on the Government lessening has become the subject of discussion in Oslo. Some political analysts said votes of the Norwegian Tamils did not go to it this time. Solheim who had gained much support from the large migrant community in Norway had lost it. Many of them publicly campaigned against Solheim.

A leader of a Tamil group said “The Tamils are unhappy with Erik Solheim’s role in Sri Lanka. We asked the Tamils to boycott the Socialist Left Party.” Solheim’s response to the campaign came when he remarked “I think the vast majority of Tamils in Norway do understand because they know I am the politician in, not only in Norway but throughout the world, who has fought most for the Tamil cause in Sri Lanka. Therefore, the Sri Lankan government is strongly critical of me, SV (his party) and Norway.”

When asked by a reporter about the call of the migrant community to withdraw support to his party, Solheim replied, “No, I do not think so. Because I believe the vast majority of Tamils in Norway follows very well the situation in Sri Lanka and know that many posters are put up in Colombo streets. I am accused of terrorism. The reason is not that I have done too little for the Tamils, but these posters are put up because I believe I have done a lot for the Tamils.” But the Tamils hit back by declaring that that Solheim’s “answers are simply not good.”

Another migrant community that opposed the party were the Somalis. It was in 1997 Solheim resigned from his party declaring he was to “retire from politics.” The announcement came after his party suffered a major defeat under his leadership.

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