Norway government's fate in hands of Christian Democrats

AFP , Monday 19 Mar 2018

Norway Justice Minister
Picture taken on March 12, 2018 shows Norwegian Minister of Justice and Public Security Sylvi Listhaug in Hurdal, Norway. Norway's right-wing government could resign if the justice minister loses a no-confidence vote after she triggered outrage among survivors of a 2011 gun massacre, media reported on March 18, 2018. (Source: AFP)

Norway's Christian Democrats met on Monday to decide on whether to back a rightwing justice minister who has triggered outrage over a Facebook post, with a no-vote potentially leading to the minority government's collapse.

The parliament is due to consider a motion of no-confidence on Tuesday against Sylvi Listhaug of the anti-immigration Progress Party (FrP), which is currently a member of a three-party centre-right coalition.

Listhaug shocked the nation when she accused the opposition Labour Party, which was targeted by rightwing extremist Anders Behring Breivik in the 2011 massacre, of favouring the rights of terrorists over national security.

The stakes are high because, according to Norwegian media, the minority government of Prime Minister Erna Solberg intends to resign if a majority of the parliament votes against Listhaug.

The country's opposition parties have already said they would vote against the minister, leaving the Christian Democratic Party in a decisive position.

This small centre-right party generally supports the coalition, but has had issues with Listhaug in the past.

"I have forgiven Sylvi Listhaug but the question is whether we trust her as justice minister," Christian Democrat leader Knut Arild Hareide said at the beginning of the senior leaders' meeting.

"The conclusion has not been drawn," he added.

In a Facebook post on March 9 which contained a photo of al-Shabaab militants, Listhaug accused Labour of considering that "the rights of terrorists are more important than the security of the nation".

She was criticising Labour's opposition to a proposal to strip the citizenship of Norwegians who pose a threat to the nation's vital interests without a court order.

Labour members were the main victims of the bloodiest attacks on Norwegian soil since WWII.

On July 22, 2011, Breivik, who once was a member of the FrP, killed 77 people in twin attacks: one targeting then Labour prime minister Jens Stoltenberg's office in Oslo and another against a Labour youth camp on the island of Utoya.

Faced with strong criticism, notably by survivors of the attacks, Listhaug finally removed the post five days after it was published, citing rights issues prohibiting the use of the al-Shabaab photo.

On Thursday, she apologised to the parliament, a move that did not satisfy the opposition.

Short link: