Crisis Ends as Norway's Listhaug Resigns Claiming `Witch Hunt'

(Bloomberg) -- Norway’s Justice Minister Sylvi Listhaug resigned just hours ahead of a no-confidence vote in parliament that risked toppling the minority coalition government.

The resignation ends a tense standoff sparked by a March 9 Facebook post by Listhaug in which she said that the opposition Labor Party -- the principle victim of Norway’s worst terrorist attack in 2011 -- cared more about the rights of terrorists than national security.

Crisis Ends as Norway's Listhaug Resigns Claiming `Witch Hunt'

The minister announced her decision on Facebook early Tuesday, saying she has been the victim of a “witch hunt” by Labor Party leader Jonas Gahr Store who’s seeking to silence the debate on immigration issues. Backed by the anti-immigration base in her Progress Party, Listhaug vowed to remain in parliament and keep pushing for strict immigration policies.

Remaining became untenable for the minister after it became clear that a majority in parliament would vote for her ouster in a process scheduled to start at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. The vote would likely have forced Prime Minister Erna Solberg to put her whole cabinet up for a vote, potentially spelling the end for the minority coalition government.

Listhaug lashed out on Facebook after a majority in parliament, including Labor, defeated a government proposal to strip potential terrorists of their citizenship without a court order.

The leader of the Progress Party, Finance Minister Siv Jensen, said in a statement to news agency NTB that she had wished that Listhaug would continue in her job and that her political career is far from over. The turmoil has “given her the best start to her continued career,” she said.

Listhaug said she chose to resign to allow the Progress Party to stay in government and prevent Labor leader Store from becoming prime minister.

The exit opens the possibility for Solberg to expand her three-party coalition with the Christian Democrats, who have remained outside government in part because of a contentious relationship with Listhaug. During last year’s election campaign Listhaug accused Christian Democrat leader Knut Arild Hareide of “licking Imams up the back.”

The Christian Democrats late Monday decided to back the no-confidence vote against Listhaug, providing the final votes for a majority to force Listhaug out.

Solberg, who depends on the Christian Democrats to pass legislation, said at a press conference on Tuesday that she will find good ways to work with the group in the time to come and opened for an expansion of her coalition. “I hope that they will see that a broad center-right government with a clear majority will be a good solution.”

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