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Norway government to rule in minority after centrists abandon talks

FILE PHOTO - Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg leaves a polling booth as she votes at a polling station during general election, in Bergen, Norway September 11, 2017. NTB scanpix/Marit Hommedal via REUTERS

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway’s Christian Democratic party withdrew from coalition talks with the government on Wednesday, ending Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s hopes of broadening her minority right-wing cabinet into a center-right majority one.

The move may make it more difficult for Solberg to secure backing for her fiscal spending plans and policy proposals, and could even jeopardize her cabinet’s long-term survival.

Solberg has ruled in a minority government since 2013 with the populist Progress Party. She had hoped to bring the two parties’ other backers in parliament, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals, into her cabinet after the four parties combined won a renewed but smaller majority on Sept. 11.

While Solberg had needed the support of just one of the two centrist parties previously to push through her policies, she now needs the backing of both in addition to that of her own Conservatives and the Progress Party.

But the Christian Democrats, wary of supporting further tax cuts and the government’s tough line on immigration, said it would stay out of government even though it preferred Solberg as prime minister over Labour leader Jonas Gahr Stoere.

Solberg had previously rejected a proposal from the Liberals and the Christian Democrats to remove Progress from the government in favor of the centrists.

“Our alternative for a government did not succeed, but we still wish for good, constructive cooperation,” party leader Knut Arild Hareide of the Christian Democrats told reporters after meeting the three other parties on Wednesday.

The Liberals will continue to negotiate with the government, but their potential inclusion in the cabinet would not be sufficient to ensure a majority.

The government is due to present its 2018 fiscal spending proposal on Oct. 12 and must negotiate a compromise in parliament by late November or early December.

Reporting by Joachim Dagenborg; Editing by Terje Solsvik and Hugh Lawson