News of Norway, February 4, 2002
Jens Stoltenberg, deputy leader and the party's candidate as prime minister, is now expected to gain sole leadership at the Social Democratic party's annual conference this fall.
Both politicians recently visited Washington, D.C., New York, and Canada as part of the 15-member Foreign Relations Committee of the Norwegian Parliament. In Washington, they met with senators, representatives of the U.S. State Department, and prominent PLO leader Abu Alla.
Jagland, a former prime minister and foreign minister, recently returned to work after an extended sick leave following a collapse from apparent exhaustion in January. His reason for resigning was a medical "warning" that the hard work combined with the leadership struggle "wasn't a good combination."
"These years have been incredibly demanding, and I'm very proud of what I've been a part of during this period," he said. Refusing to confirm his candidature, Stoltenberg noted that the convention "is a long way off." However, most political commentators expect Stoltenberg to gain sole leadership at the party's annual conference. In a brief comment, Stoltenberg declared that Jagland did "what he thinks is best for the party."
Historical low polls
Many political commentators, as well as party veterans, blamed the shared leadership between Jagland and Stoltenberg for the Social Democratic party's historical low polls. With Jagland´s recent decision to step down, Social Democrats hope to reconcile party members and refocus on policies rather than power battles.
In the national elections last fall, the Social Democrats lost power to a minority center-right coalition led by Christian Democrat Kjell Magne Bondevik. Since then, the party has suffered in the polls; therefore, the reshuffling of leadership came as no surprise to commentators.
Leader of the Sør-Trondelag Social Democratic party, Gunnar Krogstad, welcomes Jagland´s decision:
"This solves the situation in the Social Democratic Party. Now we can avoid the debate of leadership and instead concentrate on discussing politics," Krogstad said to the Norwegian newswire, NTB. Prime Minister Bondevik also sees Stoltenberg as a natural successor to Jagland.
"This is the intention of Jagland, who says he wants to take responsibility for the party’s situation."
Although gathering the most votes in the national elections last fall, the Social Democrats lost power to a center-right coalition led by Christian Democrat Kjell Magne Bondevik. Ever since, the party has suffered in the polls and a reshuffling of leadership came as no surprise to commentators.