Norway’s coalition government collapsed yesterday after the populist right-wing Progress Party pulled out in a row over a suspected terrorist supporter repatriated from Syria.
Progress Party leader Siv Jensen announced the decision after discussions with her party leadership and Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
Solberg later said that she would stay on as prime minister, leading a minority centre-right coalition government comprising her Conservatives and the two smaller centrist parties, the Liberals and Christian Democrats.
The leaders of the Liberals and Christian Democrats also confirmed they planned to stay on in the government.
The three parties have 61 of the 169 seats in parliament.
The Progress Party has 27.
The suspected Islamic State (IS) supporter, a woman who was born in Pakistan, was repatriated late on Friday with her two children.
The decision to take in a suspected adult IS supporter triggered strong tensions in the coalition, and Jensen told reporters that she had strongly warned against it.
“We could have welcomed the children, but we do not compromise with people who have participated in terrorist organisations,” Jensen told a press conference.
“I took us into government, now I take us out of government. We simply cannot get enough of the Progress Party’s policy to make it worthwhile,” Jensen added.
She made her announcement after a telephone conference with the party leadership and a meeting with Solberg.
At a separate press conference, Solberg said that she “respected” the Progress Party’s decision and welcomed their “constructive co-operation” since 2013.
Her government aimed to co-operate with the Progress Party in parliament.
The government approved the repatriation of the three from the Kurdish-controlled al-Hol refugee camp in Syria in October, acting on information that the five-year-old boy was ill.
Solberg said the government had investigated other options, but found that it was not possible to only repatriate the two children.
Jensen said she believed Solberg was her party’s favoured candidate to stay on as prime minister.
It was not immediately clear when Solberg would name replacements for the seven cabinet members the Progress Party has had.
Jensen has been finance minister since 2013.
The Conservatives and Progress Party were in a minority coalition from 2013 to 2017, relying on support from the Liberals and Christian Democrats.
After the 2017 general election, Solberg opened talks with the two junior parties.
The Liberals joined the government in 2018, and the Christian Democrats entered a year ago, securing a majority.
The Norwegian constitution does not have a provision to dissolve the 169-seat legislature between elections.
Elections are not due until 2021.
The opposition Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Store said that “more rows and unpredictable rule” would not solve Norway’s challenges, news agency NTB reported.
Oslo district court later announced that the 29-year-old woman was detained on remand for four weeks.
A court spokesperson told DPA that she had waived appearing in person.
For the time being, the woman remained under police guard at Oslo University Hospital with her children who were admitted there after their arrival to Norway, the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) said.
The PST said she was charged with supporting the terrorist-labelled groups Islamic State and the Al Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda affiliate now known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, from 2013-2019.
PST prosecutor Line Nyvoll Nygaard told reporters that the woman was co-operating, and “at present not charged with military activity”.
The woman’s attorney, Nils Christian Nordhus, has said that she denies the charges, but is willing to co-operate with the PST.
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