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Facebook post pushes Norway government to the brink of collapse

  • Mikael Holter

    Bloomberg

Oslo, Norway | Sun, March 18, 2018 | 10:16 pm
Facebook post pushes Norway government to the brink of collapse Picture taken on March 15, 2018 shows Norwegian Minister of Justice and Public Security Sylvi Listhaug speaking to the media at the Norwegian Parliament in Oslo, Norway. (Agence France -Presse/Gorm KALLESTAD / NTB Scanpix )

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg could face a tough choice: sacrifice her embattled justice minister or put her whole cabinet to a vote.

The minority government hangs in the balance after Justice Minister Sylvi Listhaug incensed the opposition by saying on Facebook that the Labor Party -- whose youth camp was targeted by Anders Behring Breivik in the 2011 terrorist attack -- cares more about the rights of terrorists than national security.

While she has since reluctantly apologized and erased the March 9 post after almost a week, the minister now faces a no-confidence vote in parliament on Tuesday. The Christian Democrats have scheduled a meeting on Monday to decide on whether they will join the center-left opposition and provide a majority for her ouster.

“This is a very demanding and serious matter, which we will have to discuss thoroughly before we decide,” Knut Arild Hareide, the head of the Christian Democrats, said on Friday.

The government would resign if the Christian Democrats back the no-confidence vote, VG reported on Sunday, citing a “central source.”

Listhaug has a power-base within the anti-immigration wing of her Progress Party, which is led by Finance Minister Siv Jensen. The 40-year-old Listhaug has in the past called political correctness on immigration a “tyranny of good” and has posted a picture on Facebook of an immigrant being expelled from Norway encouraging followers to “like and share!”

Her backers showed their support on Friday, flooding the Justice Ministry with flowers. A poll released on Friday for newspaper VG showed growing support for the Progress Party, its backing rising 2.8 percentage point to 15.9 percent. Jensen also said over the weekend that she had full confidence in Listhaug.

She has also crossed swords personally with Hareide, who now could hold her fate in his hands. In a debate about religious extremism last year, she said he and other politicians are guilty of “licking Imams up the back.”

Solberg has already apologized for Listhaug’s March 9 comment on behalf of the government. But it could be until Tuesday until it’s revealed how the premier will deal with a no-confidence vote. “The question on how the government will handle a no-confidence vote will only be answered in parliament,” Solberg told news agency NTB.

Listhaug lashed out on Facebook after a majority in parliament, including Labor, defeated a government proposal to strip potential terrorists of their citizenship without a court order.

The no-confidence motion was brought by one of parliament’s smallest parties, the Red party, and was then backed by Labor and the others.

“The parliamentary majority can’t accept a Justice Minister who claims that we put terrorists’ rights above the nation’s security,” Red Party leader Bjornar Moxnes said on Twitter. “It quite simply goes beyond the limits of what a government minister can do.”

Labor Party leader, Jonas Gahr Store said on Saturday to broadcaster NRK that it would be acceptable if Listhaug was given another ministry to run. The plan was rejected by the Progress Party, which is also holding a meeting on Monday.

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