Norway. In the spring, foot-and-mouth disease in Europe
resulted in Norway closing the border to Sweden for some food,
despite the fact that neither country was affected.
Countryaah, the populist Progress Party (FRP), which was the largest
party in opinion polls last autumn, lost half of its
sympathizers at the beginning of the year. The decline
followed a bitter power struggle between party leader Carl
I. Hagen and primarily the party's Oslo district. The party
board suspended or excluded a number of senior members. The
settlement was seen as an attempt by Hagen to clear out the
most outspoken immigrant opponents to have the party
accepted as part of an upcoming bourgeois government.
However, the government dream was shattered when Frp's
vice-president was accused of rape and forced to resign.
The ruling Labor Party (AP), which wanted to modernize
the public sector, made only temporary public opinion gains
following Frp's decline. Høyre, who promised to improve the
worn-out schools and at the same time lower taxes, took the
initiative instead and became the largest party in the
public opinion during the summer. Thus there were three
prime ministerial candidates: Høyre's leader Jan Petersen,
the incumbent Head of Government Jens Stoltenberg, Ap, and
the former central government's Prime Minister Kjell Magne
Bondevik, Christian People's Party, Krf.
The parliamentary elections in September were won by
Høyre, who went from 23 to 38 seats. Ap became a loser with
a decline from 65 to 43 seats. The left wing was partially
offset by the Socialist Left Party more than doubling its
mandate from 9 to 23, but the AP government chose to resign.
The center shrunk and was no longer a realistic government
alternative. The right leader then invited two of the middle
parties, Krf and Venstre, to talks about a broad bourgeois
government, but the negotiations failed. Bondevik, whose Krf
received 22 seats in the elections, took over the initiative
and managed one of the three parties around a joint program.
With Bondevik as prime minister, Petersen as foreign
minister and Left's leader Lars Sponheim as agriculture
minister, a minority government was formed, which in the
Storting became dependent on the Progress Party's 26
The election movement was unusually quiet, as the nation
was occupied a few weeks before the election by the royal
wedding held between Crown Prince Haakon and Mette-Marit
Finland's largest asset manager Sampo tried during the
year in vain to acquire the Norwegian insurance group
Storebrand. The AP government and a majority in the Storting
wanted Den norske Bank to take over Storebrand and keep the
company in Norwegian ownership. The fight was described in
the Norwegian press as a "international fight", as the
Finnish state is a partner in Sampo.
The Norwegian state oil company Statoil was partially
privatized in June on the Oslo Stock Exchange. The company's
share price fell soon, and in the autumn oil prices fell
below the level that was the basis for the government's 2002
The major Kværner Group was threatened with bankruptcy
but was offered the rescue of the Russian oil company Yukos
Oil, which wanted to become its largest shareholder.
However, it was financier Kjell Inge Røkke who managed to
take over that role and start a rescue operation that was
expected to give Kvaerner 3.5 billion Norwegian kroner.
Thus, Røkke had definitely established himself as Norway's