Hareide will not let Thommessen wait long to know his fate
Leader of the Christian Democrats (KrF), Knut Arild Hareide, says he will not let it be a protracted process before the party decides on Olemic Thommessen’s (Conservatives) fate as the President of the Norwegian Parliament. Thommessen is officially number two in Norway, after the King. The latest development in the case is that he resigns as President.
The party held its regular group meeting in the Parliament (Stortinget) on Wednesday. There the statement that Thommessen made on Tuesday about the giant building scandal in the Parliament was at the top of the agenda. As expected, the party did not reach a decision during the meeting.
– We have had quite a long group meeting with many casaes on the agenda, but we have naturally discussed the issues concerning the presidency and the President of the Parliament. The case has not been on the order of the day as a matter to be decided, and I have nothing to announce based on today’s meeting, says Hareide on his way out from the meeting.
He emphasizes that the party is concerned that the case should not be drawn out and that they now have initiated a process. He will not comment on the mood of the parliamentary group or whether the case should be treated separately or as a part of the Finance Committee’s review.
Many bear responsibility
Hareide mentions the matter as being very serious, saying that responsibility rests with many, the presidency and the President in particular.
Several parties have demanded for Thommessen’s to resign after the last increase in the construction cost of near to NOK 500 million. Since the Government parties have remained in support of Thommessen, the Christian Democrat’s votes will be decisive.
The KrF leader acknowledges that the responsibility is a burden.
– We recognize that there is a certain vacuum at present. Since we have not reached any conclusion yet, it is obvious that there are two possible outcomes of this case. It makes for tension, he says.
At the same time, he denies that KrF is involved in a political game and is looking to reap any possible benefit from supporting Thommessen and thereby not inflicting a painful defeat for the Conservatives.
– This is not part of a collaborative question or political horse trading. Its about doing what we believe to be the right thing to do, says Hareide.
Conservartives is divided on Thommessen
The Conservatives are also divided on the view of Thommessen. On Wednesday, Michael Tetzschner came with strong criticism of the presidency in a chronicle in Aftenposten.
– Ever since the construction started in the summer of 2014, the presidency has obtained formal budget decisions based partly on misleading information, Tetzschner writes. He was one of the strongest critics of the administration and the presidency when the construction case was discussed in the Storting in June last year. This happened in the wake of the crushing report made by the OAG.
The critique hit at the time Thommessen especially hard, who was re-elected as President with the least possible majority after the general elections last autumn.
– The construction case is the story of an crisis that was ordered, where the Parliament’s function as granting authority has been undermined in all phases, Tetzschner goes on.
Tetzschner’s view will not affect KrF’s assessment, according to Hareide.
– But it’s surprising to me that the Conservatives chooses to make that play now, he says.
Can there ever be calm in this case as long as Thommessen remains as President?
– I will not speculate on that now, says Hareide.
At the same time, the Finance Committee has already started on the work to find coverage for the nearly NOK 500 million that the construction cost has exceeded prevouis the budget with. The Finance Committee got the matter presented to it on Tuesday, the chairman, Henrik Asheim (Conservatives), tells NTB.
– What we are to do is to provide a letter of attorney to increase the cost frame. We therefore have to look at where we can take the money from, says Asheim.
The committee shall, among other things, assess how much can be garnished from the Parliament’s own budget.
– We require input from the presidency on that, says Asheim.
The remainder the Government must find coverage for in the revised state budget that will be presented in May.
The original project had a budget of NOK 73 million, which has skyrocketed to in excess of NOK 2.3 billion. The scope of the project has naturally been increased several times along, the way, but people nevertheless cannot fathom why the Parliament insisted to run the project themselves in stead of using the expertise from Statsbygg (The State’s own building company).
Olemic Thommessen resigns as President
Olemic Thommessen (Conservatives) resigns as President of the Norwegian Parliament because of the construction scandal. The reason is that the Christian Democrats (KrF) no longer has trust in him.
– I have been informed that the Christian Democrats has withdrawn their support of me as the President of the Parliament, and I will therefore of course, step down from that role. I would therefore like to facilitate the election of a replacement as soon as possible, says Olemic Thommessen, before the Parliament (Stortinget) started on today’s agenda.
After what NTB has been informed, the Christian Democrats has informed the Conservatives (Høyre) that the party no longer has trust in Thomessen after the building scandal at the Parliament and the huge cost overruns.
KrF leader, Knut Arild Hareide, and parliamentary deputy leader, Hans Fredrik Grøvan, has convened a press conference at the Parliament at 10.15 am.
Several parties have demanded for Thommessen’s resignment after the last increase in the construction cost of near to NOK 500 million. Since the Government parties have stood by Thommessen, KrF’s votes were crucial. It is probably the latest account by Thommessen’s role as the responsible for the project, which has led to that KrF no longer trust him as the President of the Parliament.
– The construction case has been and remains a difficult matter for Stortinget. I hope that the fact that I am resigning can help us calm down the issue and bring it forward as such, says Thommessen.
Thommessen had no choice, says FrP
Parliamentary leader in Frp, Hans Andreas Limi, states that OlemicThommessen had no other viable options than to resign from the office as President,
– It was a good decision to step down, says Limi, who says that the outcome was a natural concequence after KrF had decided on the case.
Limi says the most important thing now, after Thommessen decided to withdraw, is that the Parliament gets control of the construction project, which has a current price tag of NOK 2.3 billion. That is 33 times more than the original project
– We must complete this construction project without any additional surprises, says Limi.
The conclusion could have been reached earlier, says Støre
It is the right decision that Olemic Thommessen now resigns as President, says Labour leader Jonas Gahr Støre. The conclusion could however have been reached earlier.
– That it ended with party mathematics, that he had to do it because KrF pulled their support, is to be noted. We believe the conclusion could have been reached at an earlier stage, based on the content of the case, says Støre.
Støre says it will be good for Stortinget to elect a different President. He hopes that will happen quickly.
Will Labour vote for a possible candidate from the Conservatives as the next President?
– We must consider in the usual way. If the majority comes up with a candidate, we will consider that person. Previously we have voted for the candidate that the majority puts forward in order to have a unifying President, says Støre to NTB.
Facts about the construction project
- The Parliament’s construction project includes rehabilitation of a neighbouring building to the Parliament, an access tunnel, commodity and postal services. The plans were submitted in 2011, and construction work started in 2014.
- That the Parliament chose to be the responsible builder themselves rather than using Statsbygg has since been criticized from several quarters. The Parliament has chosen to drag Multiconsult before the Oslo District Court. The consulting company is accused of extensive breaches of contract which has led to additional construction costs for the project, something which the company refutes.
- An overall parliament criticized the presidency for the handling of the construction project before the summer of last year and the many major overruns. During the period there were also sharp criticisms from the Office of the Auditor General and the Control Committee, and a proposal of mistrust was also put forward against the President of the Parliament, Olemic Thommessen (Conservatives).
- When the last cost overruns were announced on Thursday, February 15, the Director of the Parliament, Ida Børresen, chose to resign.
- On March 8, President Olemic Thommessen (Conservatives) also resigned.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today