Norway: A Progressive Prime Minister

Millionaire Labor Party leader becomes Norway's prime minister.

Jonas Gahr Støre is the son of a shipbroker and a librarian; and he’s a multimillionaire, much of whose fortune came from his family’s sale of their stove-manufacturing company—and he’s the likely new prime minister of Norway. [Editor’s Note: At press time, Norway’s Labor Party is in coalition talks with two of the other major political parties: the Center Party and the Socialist Left Party.]

Most surprisingly, he gained the post running as the leader of the Labor Party. “My finances are not ordinary, but many things about me are,” he said in an interview with Agence France-Presse leading to the general election that saw the left-wing opposition winning in a landslide against former Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s Conservative Party.

Støre bears little resemblance to the caricature of an inexperienced business mogul trying his hand in politics. A graduate of the Paris Institute of Political Studies and a former teaching fellow at Harvard Law School, the 61-year-old politician campaigned on a platform of higher taxes for the wealthy and fiscal relief for low- and middle-income families.

He is well prepared for the job as prime minister, according to Elin Haugsgjerd Allern, a political scientist at the University of Oslo (UiO). “He has been a member of parliament since 2009 and party leader since 2014; he also served as foreign and health minister and, before that, as executive director at the World Health Organization in Geneva.”

Peter Egge Langsæther, a colleague of Allern at UiO’s department of political science, agrees: “Støre should certainly not be dismissed as a rich wannabe statesman, as he has been a prominent politician for many years.” Yet, Langsæther says, he certainly faces critical challenges. “The centralization reforms of the center-right government have met with fierce opposition from the rural parts of Norway, and dealing with these concerns will be an important priority for the new government.”