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September 16, 2009

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Norway PM wins second term

NORWEGIAN Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg declared victory yesterday for the center-left in a tight parliamentary election and pledged to maintain his economic policy course and start coalition talks with partners.

With 99.9 percent of votes counted, Stoltenberg's coalition holds a slim but unassailable majority in parliament over the center-right opposition, which had tried to woo voters with promises of tax cuts and more private initiative in the economy.

The result showed voters credited Stoltenberg with steering his oil-producing country through the global downturn and an active government role in promoting full employment.

"We will start the work on a new government platform. I'm confident we'll succeed, as we've had four years of experience with this," Stoltenberg told a news conference in Oslo.

Stoltenberg's Labor, the Socialist Left and the Center Party jointly hold 86 of parliament's 169 seats, one less than they won four years ago but good enough to be the first re-elected Norwegian government in 16 years.

"Stoltenberg's grand triumph," daily Dagsavisen flashed on its front page. Mainstream daily Aftenposten said "The Victor" next to a smiling picture of Stoltenberg, while Dagbladet led with "Proud of you Jens," quoting the prime minister's wife. Tabloid VG looked forward, saying on its front page that "Jens wants new people in his cabinet".

No government has been voted back in since 1993, not long before the country set up the wealth fund to invest oil and gas revenues abroad, instead of pumping them into the local economy.

Now worth US$80,000 per citizen, the fund fuels hopes for quick improvements in public services, which in turn has led to a series of one-term cabinets.


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