A social media post by Norway’s justice minister accusing the opposition Labour party of putting terrorists’ rights above national security has triggered a no-confidence vote that could bring down the country’s minority government.
Five centre-left parties have said they aim to oust Sylvi Listhaug, of the populist, anti-immigration Progress party in the parliamentary vote on Tuesday, following widespread outrage at the Facebook post, which she has since deleted.
“Labour thinks the rights of terrorists are more important than the nation’s security. Like and share,” the minister wrote on 9 March beneath a photo of masked Islamist fighters dressed in combat fatigues, black scarves and ammunition belts.
The rightwing extremist Anders Behring Breivik shot dead 69 mainly young people at a summer camp run by the youth wing of the Norwegian Labour party on Utøya island in July 2011. Eight more were killed by a car bomb in central Oslo.
Listhaug’s post, which coincided with the Oslo premiere of a film about the Utøya killings, the country’s worst peacetime massacre, unleashed a political furore and she was eventually forced to apologise eight times in parliament last week.
The Labour leader, Jonas Gahr Støre, said Listhaug – who has previously called liberal attitudes to migration a “tyranny of good” and urged her Facebook followers to “like and share” a picture of an immigrant being expelled from Norway – was “fuelling the hatred” that led to the attacks.
The minister took six days to take the post down and faced further criticism when her initial apology to MPs referred to a “communications” error rather than the offensive content of the post. She eventually made an unconditional apology, saying “of course it is not the case” that Labour was a threat to national security.
The prime minister, Erna Solberg, also apologised on the government’s behalf, saying Norway had a “special link” with terrorism and had to “pay special attention in discussing it”.
The opposition Centre party on Friday joined several leftwing groups that had already said they would support the no-confidence vote, in effect leaving the fate of the justice minister – unless she resigns – to the Christian Democratic party, which was meeting on Monday to decide how it would vote.
“The polarising rhetoric and behaviour must end,” the party’s leader, Knut Arild Hareide, said before the talks started. “The conclusion has not been reached.”
Norwegian media reported over the weekend that the government would stand by Listhaug and resign if the Christian Democrats – who, while supporting Solberg as prime minister since 2013, have refused to join her coalition mainly because of their dislike of Listhaug and the Progress party – backed the motion.
Solberg, whose rightwing coalition of her Conservatives and the Progress and Liberal parties was formed in January after elections last September, could then either try to form a new cabinet or, if the Christian Democrats withdrew their backing, the task could fall to the Labour leader. Snap elections are not allowed.
(N.Sethu , (theguardian)