Norway's coalition government loses right-wing party after ISIS widow is repatriated

Norway's coalition government loses right-wing party after ISIS widow is repatriated

The populist Progress Party pulled out of Norway's centre-right governing coalition Monday over the decision to repatriate an ISIS-linked woman and her two children from a detention camp in Syria.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg said she would continue with a minority government comprised of three coalition partners — her own Conservatives, the centrist Liberal Party and the Christian Democrats.

Progress Party Leader Siv Jensen said "the cup is now full" after the decision to allow the woman to return to Norway — a decision on which her anti-immigration party feels it was not consulted.

She said when Solberg's coalition expanded a year ago to include the Liberals and the Christian Democrats, veering more to the centre and becoming a majority government, "enthusiasm dropped."

"Over time, politics was too much based on compromises," said Jensen, who is Norway's outgoing finance minister.

Prime Minister Solberg said she "understood" why the Progress Party wanted to leave her coalition government. She said she would seek co-operation with the party — which is Norway's third-largest.

Norway's next parliamentary election is scheduled for September 2021.

To stay in office until then and pass legislation in the 169-seat parliament, Solberg needs the support of parties outside the government, including the Progress Party.

Woman, children currently detained

The 29-year-old Norwegian woman of Pakistani descent reportedly travelled to Syria in 2013 and married a Norwegian foreign fighter there who was later killed in fighting. One of her children is quite ill.

She was formally arrested Saturday upon her return and was placed in an Oslo hospital with both children.

Jensen said many believed that the woman, who has not been named, "used her child as a shield to come back to Norway."

"There are many … who are displeased by this, not just in the Progress Party," Jensen said last week.

The mother, who was not named, refused to let the sick child travel alone to Norway, which then allowed her to travel from the Kurdish-controlled camp at al-Hol where all three had been detained since March 2019.

"A majority in the government believed that concern for the child was paramount," Solberg said.

Solberg has been prime minister of the Scandinavian country since 2013, when she formed a coalition with the Progress Party. The parties won renewed support in 2017 elections.

At the Finance Ministry, the new appointee to replace Jensen will chart the course for the world's largest sovereign wealth fund, with assets of $1.1 trillion US.

The split also leaves six other cabinet positions held by Progress members for Solberg to fill.