The opposition Conservatives and centre-right Progress Party scored electoral gains in Norway's local and regional elections held Monday, final tallies said Tuesday.
Although the vote was for local and regional councils that decide on funding for schools and nursing homes and other local affairs, the elections were also viewed as a test for Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's two-year-old red-green coalition.
Stoltenberg noted that his Labour Party remained the largest party and improved to 29.7 per cent from the 27.5 per cent scored in local elections 2003.
He told party faithful that this bucked the trend where ruling parties often "lose support," adding it was a disappointment that his party failed to win back Oslo city council.
Voter turnout was projected at 59.9 per cent, one of the lowest in the Scandinavian country since 1922.
The Centre Party, also part of Stoltenberg's coalition, held its 8 per cent and party leader Aslaug Haga said it was one of the party's best results in recent years.
Fellow coalition partner, the Socialist Left Party lost half its support nationwide and dropped to 6 per cent.
Party leader Kristin Halvorsen, also finance minister, said she was "disappointed" but she ruled out pulling out of the government.
The poor result was attributed to the party's failure to present its policies on environment, climate change and education. Some party members said Education Minister Oystein Djupedal and Environment Minister Helen Bjornoy should be replaced in the cabinet.
The opposition Conservatives secured second place with 19 per cent, up 1 per cent on 2003, and aimed to form a coalition in Oslo city council.
"This is just the beginning," party leader Erna Solberg said, referring to parliamentary elections due in 2009.
The Progress Party was on roughly 17 per cent, just above the 2003 result.
"We have done a good election and now we have to deliver," said Progress Party leader Siv Jensen who became leader in May 2006.
The Liberal Party gained 2 percentage points to 5.8 per cent and urged the Conservatives to include them in their coalitions as did the Christian Democrats that remained at roughly 6 per cent.
Last Mod: 11 Eylül 2007, 14:42