Norway's coalition collapses after IS family repatriated from Syria

Photo: EPA Progress party leader Siv Jensen speaks during a press conference in Oslo, 20 January.

Norway's coalition government collapsed on Monday after the populist right-wing Progress Party pulled out in a row over a suspected terrorist supporter repatriated from Syria, news wires reported. However, the PM Erna Solberg said she would stay in office, leading a minority coalition government comprising her Conservatives and the two smaller centrist parties, the Liberals and Christian Democrats.

The three parties have 61 of the 169 seats in parliament. The Progress Party has 27.

The suspected Islamic State supporter, a Pakistan-born woman, was repatriated late Friday with her two children. The decision to take in a suspected adult Islamic State supporter triggered strong tensions in the coalition. "We could have welcomed the children, but we do not compromise with people who have participated in terrorist organizations," Progress Party leader Siv Jensen Jensen told a press conference. "I took us into government, now I take us out of government. We simply cannot get enough of the Progress Party's policy to make it worthwhile," Jensen added.

At a separate press conference, Solberg said she "respected" the Progress Party's decision and welcomed their "constructive cooperation" since 2013. Her government aimed to cooperate with the Progress Party in parliament. The government approved the repatriation of the three from the Kurdish-controlled al-Hol refugee camp in Syria in October, acting on information that the 5-year-old boy was very ill. Solberg said the government had investigated other options, but found it was not possible to only repatriate the two children.

It was not immediately clear when Solberg would name replacements for the seven cabinet members the Progress Party has had. Jensen has been finance minister since 2013. The Conservatives and Progress Party were in a minority coalition from 2013 to 2017, relying on support from the smaller Liberals and Christian Democrats. After the 2017 general election, Solberg opened talks with the two junior parties. The Liberals joined the government in 2018, and the Christian Democrats entered a year ago, securing a majority. The Norwegian constitution does not have a provision to dissolve the 169-seat legislature between elections, dpa recalls. Elections are not due until 2021.

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