Norway foreign minister sacked in cabinet reshuffle
OSLO, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Norway's Labour Party Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere announced on Monday a government reshuffle, sacking the foreign minister and making six other changes to the cabinet as the centre-left coalition lags the opposition in opinion polls.
The announcement comes five weeks after municipal and regional elections in which Labour placed second behind the Conservatives, the first time since 1924 that the leftwing group failed to finish first in any nationwide vote.
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Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt in August said her husband had traded shares in publicly listed companies while she was in office, including in state-controlled defence contractor Kongsberg Gruppen, which does government business.
The case was among the factors leading to Huitfeldt's departure on Monday, along with a need for cabinet renewal, Stoere told a press conference.
Huitfeldt has said she was not aware of her husband's share trades, and had thus been unable to recuse herself from relevant government decisions, but the case is now subject to a lengthy ethics investigation by parliament.
Conservative Party leader Erna Solberg, Labour's main rival, is subject to a similar probe by parliament after it was recently revealed that her husband had traded shares during her time as prime minister from 2013 to 2021.
Stoere said the government could not afford to be sidetracked during a time of international crisis, pointing to the war in Ukraine and the recent outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas.
"The country needs a foreign minister who can spend all (his or her) time on the job," Stoere told a press conference.
Huitfeldt was replaced by Espen Barth Eide, who comes from the position of climate minister but previously served as foreign minister in 2012-2013.
The ministers for fisheries, local government and labour policy also left the government, while two moved to new posts. A new position for digitalisation and public administration was created, expanding the cabinet to 20 members.
Finance Minister Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, Industry Minister Jan Christian Vestre and Minister of Energy Terje Aasland kept their jobs.
The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy will drop "petroleum" from its name at the start of 2024, becoming the Ministry of Energy, the government said. Norway is Europe's largest natural gas supplier and pumps some 2% of the world's annual oil output.
The minority government of Labour and the Centre Party faces an election for parliament in 2025. (Reporting by Terje Solsvik, editing by Gwladys Fouche and Sharon Singleton)