If KrF is to have a new party leader sitting in the Storting, they have only two choices. Getting someone from outside will be very difficult, according to election experts.
On Saturday, Kjell Ingolf Ropstad resigned as party leader in KrF Aftenposten’s revelations about tax and commuter housing.
Several KrF leaders VG has spoken to this weekend are clear that the new party leader must be among those with seats in the Storting.
If the future leader of KrF is also to sit in the Storting, there are only two candidates to choose from: Deputy leader and Minister of Agriculture Olaug Bollestad and Minister of Development Dag Inge Ulstein.
In addition, State Secretary Hans Olav Syversen and KrF’s group leader in Viken Ida Lindtveit Røse are highlighted as relevant names.
Neither of these two will sit in the Storting for the next four years.
– Very demanding
– It is very demanding to have a party leader who sits outside the Storting, says Jonas Stein, associate professor of political science at the University of Tromsø and former Liberal politician.
Stein says that he does not see any advantages in having a party leader who does not sit in the Storting.
– In politics, there is a lot that happens day by day. Things go fast. You are welcome to have a statement in a short time and must then have in-depth knowledge of the cases. A lot also happens in the parliamentary debates and as proposals in the hall. Then it is difficult to sit on the outside, he says.
Stein says that it is difficult to stay up to date on day-to-day politics.
Can create conflicts
Stein says that party leaders in such a situation can quickly come into conflict with the parliamentary leader of the party in the Storting.
– I think it can be difficult to see who decides, parliamentary leader or party leader, Stein says.
– In the Liberal Party, Odd Einar Dørum was party leader until 1996, while Lars Sponheim sat in the Storting as a one-man group. It became very conflict-filled. Sponheim eventually demanded that he become party leader, he says.
He also points it out public laundry between the two national spokespersons Rasmus Hansson and Hilde Opoku in MDG in 2016.
– It got very inflamed, says Stein.
1 of 2Photo: Mortensen, Terje
– Has happened before
Professor Emeritus at Høgskolen i Innlandet, Jon Helge Lesjø, says that it is entirely possible to elect a party leader who does not sit in the Storting, but says it can present several challenges.
– Formally and actually, the answer is yes, and there are some historical examples where this has happened, but experience shows that without representatives in the Storting, the parties feel they are too enclosed in the organization, and therefore too little visible to the outside, he says.
It is admittedly not necessarily a requirement to be a parliamentary representative to be elected as party leader, says Lesjø.
He refers, among other things, to Erling Nordvik, who was leader of the Conservative Party between 1974–1980 and again from 1984–1986.
– For large periods, he was party chairman without sitting in the Storting, and it worked well. But he had a lot of political experience and knew many in the community.
Former Prime Minister Thorbjørn Jagland (AP) has also been party leader without a seat in the Storting. Jagland was elected leader of the Labor Party in 1992, but did not become a parliamentary representative until 1993.
Another example is Kåre Kristiansen, who led KrF both between 1975–77 and 1979–83. When he was elected leader for the second time in 1979, there was no parliamentary seat. However, Kristiansen entered the Storting again in 1981.
Lesjø thus believes that both Hans Olav Syversen and Ida Lindtveit Røse can very well be elected as the new leader, if the party so wishes.
– Syvertsen is a veteran, and knows the party well. The ballast he has with him will come in handy. At the same time, he can be perceived as a vintage figure, who will sit for a relatively short time. Røse will thus be a natural choice as the future representative of the party, but building a new front figure will take time.
May be overshadowed
Nevertheless, Lesjø believes – like Stein – that a party leader without a seat in the Storting will risk feeling that they are not sufficiently involved in current politics. He also points to the challenge of having different party leaders and parliamentary leaders.
– It is often the leader of the parliamentary group who is perceived as the leader of the party. Thus, the parliamentary leader casts shadows over the party leader.
It will therefore be desirable for party leaders to get into the Storting as soon as possible, if they are not already there, Lesjø believes.
– If you do not have a seat in the Storting and the party in addition is not in government, you must be a very strong and mature person to succeed. It is a demanding job, and KrF needs a party leader who is both visible and spends time out in the organization, he says.
Hareide: – The leader should sit in the Storting
Minister of Transport and Communications and former KrF leader, Knut Arild Hareide, believes that the next leader should sit in the Storting. Hareide himself sat in the Storting when he was party leader for KrF between 2011 and 2019.
– The unique lectern provides opportunities to reach out widely. I experienced this as a significant strength when I myself was party leader, he said tenl Bergens Tidende.
Hareide will admittedly not set a parliamentary seat as an absolute requirement for a new party leader, the newspaper writes.
To VG, Hareide elaborates that the party must now be allowed to control its own process.
– We have several very talented candidates, with Olaug Bollestad and Dag Inge Ulstein at the helm. But now they must have time to make their own assessments, he says.
Must get up again
This year, KrF had its worst election result since 1936, three years after the party was first established. Lesjø believes their biggest challenge will be to become a new nationwide party.
– This year’s election reaffirmed that KrF is a party for the southwestern country, which is otherwise very weak. They need to be rebuilt as an option for many people, not just a few.
– What do you think is the reason for their election result?
– There are probably several reasons for this, and the decline has taken place over time, but the liberal values have become so dominant today that it has become demanding for KrF to promote its more conservative view. On top of this came the question of whether they should lean to the right or left. The party failed to fully mobilize its voters.
– Will Ropstad’s resignation have a lot of impact on voters’ trust in the party?
– Now, first and foremost, Ropstad and his leadership fall, and he has taken the consequences of what has happened. But there is no doubt that the situation will make things extra demanding for KrF in the future.
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