OSLO (Reuters) – The head of Norway’s anti-immigration Progress Party will step down in May and will not run for parliament in September this year, she said in a surprise announcement on Thursday.
Siv Jensen, 51, served as finance minister from late 2013 to early 2020 and has led her party for 15 years.
The Progress Party quit the government in January 2020 over a cabinet decision to help bring a woman suspected of being affiliated with Islamic State back home to Norway.
Still, the party has remained a key supporter in parliament for the minority centre-right government of Prime Minister Erna Solberg, providing backing for fiscal budgets and other legislation.
Progress has lost support in opinion polls, however, dropping to around 8% recently from 15% in the 2017 election.
Jensen said she recommended the party appoint deputy head Sylvi Listhaug, who has held several cabinet posts, including that of oil minister, as its next leader.
Listhaug, 43, was forced to quit as justice minister in March 2018 after accusing the opposition Labour Party of putting “terrorists’ rights” before national security, but made a comeback in the cabinet a year later.
“I have known Sylvi for many years, and I have seen what a big talent and potential she has,” Jensen said.
Jensen’s time as Norwegian finance minister, just over six years, was the longest unbroken stint in the post since World War Two.
(Reporting by Terje Solsvik and Victoria Klesty; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Frances kerry)