The general election in September looks to be heading for a close finish between the governing centre-left parties and the centre-right opposition. The Labour Party and the populist Progress Party are expected to dominate the final stages of the election campaign, but it is the showing by the smaller parties that is likely to determine which coalitions are possible in the new parliament.
The performance of the Liberals will be crucial in determining which coalition will be able to secure a majority.
Among the opposition parties, Progress has so far run the most successful campaign, benefiting from media attention on issues such as immigration and crime. Even the more serious "broadsheet" newspapers, such as Aftenposten, have had extensive coverage of East European criminal gangs operating in Norway. This has allowed the Progress Party to attack Labour for being soft on crime and the governing parties of the present and past administrations (in effect all the other parties) for allowing Norway to have such permeable borders.
The Economist Intelligence Unit's central forecast is that the government will be returned to office with a slim majority, but if Labour's coalition partners fail to match the share of the vote that they won in 2005, forming a centre-left government would become quite a challenge.
Should Labour maintain or advance on its 2005 position, but fail to achieve a majority together with its present partners, it could try to reshape the government as one including the three centrist parties, the Centre Party, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals (the SV would be unlikely to join such a grouping).
The two remaining alternatives are a two-party coalition of the Conservatives and Progress, or a minority Progress government. Both of these options would need backing from the Liberals and Christian Democrats, which would be given on a case-by-case basis. The two smaller parties would probably be prepared to allow such governments a couple of years in office before considering whether to bring them down in a vote of no confidence. Hardly an ideal arrangement in which to lead the Norwegian economy out of recession.