Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was under pressure Wednesday in the wake of a scathing report on the authorities’ handling of the Anders Behring Breivik attacks that left 77 people dead.
Several polls published on Wednesday showed that a majority of Norwegians wanted Stoltenberg to stay on as prime minister, but between 19 and 30.7 percent of those surveyed said they thought he ought to resign.
Political analyst Frank Aarebrot, however, said the poll results were “not surprising”.
“Those who plan to vote for Stoltenberg (in the next election) want him to stay on, those who plan to vote to the right want him out,” he said.
Rightwing extremist Breivik on July 22, 2011 set off a car bomb outside the government offices in Oslo, killing eight people, before going to the island of Utoeya, northwest of the capital, where he spent more than an hour gunning down another 69 people, mostly teenagers, and wounding dozens of others.
An independent commission appointed by Stoltenberg to see what lessons could be learned from the authorities’ response submitted its report on Monday, primarily criticising the police’s slow and disorganised handling.
But it was also highly critical of the government.
According to the commission, the Oslo bombing could have been prevented if the street outside the government office complex had been closed to traffic in line with recommendations dating back to 2004.
The traffic restrictions had never been implemented because of bureaucratic red tape and political apathy.
Stoltenberg, who enjoyed soaring popularity in the wake of the attacks with his calls for more openness and democracy, was personally singled out for having failed to address the safety of his government offices at the highest levels when it was brought to his attention as early as 2007.
“Stoltenberg should resign,” Norway’s biggest newspaper, the tabloid Verdens Gang, thundered on Tuesday.
“Our authorities have simply not been able to protect us because of incompetence, failure to follow up on adopted measures and a lack of respect for emergency crisis plans,” an editorial read.
“It would be intolerable if there were no direct consequences on the people in charge,” it added.
Stoltenberg, whose centre-left coalition holds a majority in parliament, has rejected the idea of a resignation.
“The best way for me to take responsibility is to ensure that the necessary measures to improve security are carried out,” Stoltenberg said Monday after the report was published.
With one year to go before the next legislative elections, the opposition has said it does not plan to gain politically from the matter. But parliament is to hold an extraordinary session at an as-yet-undetermined date to discuss the report’s conclusions.