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Norwegian coalition deal gives finance, oil ministries to populists

Norway's main opposition leader Erna Solberg of Hoyre speaks to party members while waiting for the results of the general elections in Oslo
Norway's main opposition leader Erna Solberg of Hoyre speaks to party members while waiting for the results of the general elections in Oslo

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway's Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg unveiled her minority government on Wednesday, giving the key oil and finance portfolios to her smaller coalition ally, the populist Progress Party.

Solberg, Norway's second female prime minister, appointed women to half of the cabinet posts, in line with an unwritten rule about gender equality, and for the first time, the top two jobs will be held by women.

The new government, promising to lower taxes, reduce the economy's reliance on the vast oil sector, invest heavily in infrastructure and curtail immigration, now has just a few weeks to revise the outgoing government's 2014 budget to reflect its own policies.

Solberg kept 11 of 18 cabinet posts for her Conservative Party and made Progress Party leader Siv Jensen finance minister, in line with the norm for previous coalitions in Norway.

Analysts said that appointment was also an attempt to curtail the anti-immigration and anti-tax party's room to push for more spending by making it directly responsible for public finances. Progress is keen to both cut taxes and boost spending, particularly for infrastructure.

The oil ministry, which oversees Statoil and sets policy for oil sector that accounts for a fifth of the economy and half of exports, will be headed by the Progress Party's Tord Lien, a relatively low profile former MP who stood down at the election.

However, the Conservative Party will hold onto the industry and trade ministry, which oversees the majority of Norway's state owned companies, like telecoms firm Telenor, top bank DNB, aluminum maker Norsk Hydro and fertilizer maker Yara.

Solberg's government will rule in a minority after failing to win over several small centrist parties. But minority governments are common in Nordic countries and the Conservatives have enlisted the formal outside backing of the Liberals and the Christian Democrats to ensure stability.

(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi; editing by Patrick Graham)

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