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‘Election thriller’ gets underway in Norway

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Rasmus Hansson, leader of Norway’s Green Party (Miljopartiet de Gronne), casts his ballot at a polling station in Bekkestua, Oslo, during general elections on September 11, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / NTB Scanpix / Hakon Mosvold Larsen / Norway OUT

Polling stations opened across oil-rich Norway on Monday for an election nail-biter that will decide whether “the world’s happiest country” will be run by the outgoing rightwing coalition or the opposition for the next four years.

Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s coalition and the opposition led by Labour’s Jonas Gahr Store are neck-and-neck in the latest opinion polls.

An aggregate of opinion polls indicates the two sides could be separated by just one seat in the 169-member parliament.

Editorialists have called the legislative vote the “biggest election thriller in many decades” in the wealthy Scandinavian nation of 5.3 million people, named the happiest country in the world in a respected UN report in March.

Polling stations opened at 9:00 am (0700 GMT) and will close at 9:00 pm (1900 GMT), when the first partial results will be released.

In power since 2013, the coalition government, comprising Solberg’s Conservatives and the mildly populist anti-immigration Progress Party, has campaigned on a vow of continuity.

It has pledged to pursue further tax cuts to bolster the economy, which is recovering after the drop in crude prices since 2014.

Norway is Western Europe’s biggest oil producer.

Meanwhile, Store, a millionaire, has vowed to raise taxes for the richest, in a bid to strengthen Norwegians’ cherished welfare state and reduce inequalities in society.

“We need a change now because we are growing apart from each other,” the 57-year-old Labour leader said after casting his ballot already on Sunday, an option offered in numerous municipalities.

More than one million of the 3.76 million registered voters also cast their ballots early.

Solberg, a 56-year-old career politician, is expected to vote around 10:30 am (0830 GMT) in her hometown of Bergen on the west coast.


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