Norwegians voted for a swing to the right and a change of government in national elections, ending Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s eight years in office at the helm of a red-green coalition.
Mr. Stoltenberg conceded defeat late Monday and congratulated Conservative Party leader Erna Solberg on the victory.
Ms. Solberg’s opposition bloc was projected to win 96 seats, well clear of the 85 needed for a majority in the 169-seat legislature.
Final results were due Tuesday.
“Voters had a choice between 12 years of the red-green coalition or a new government — the voters chose us,” Ms. Solberg told party faithful.
The conservatives last led a government in 1990.
At a televised debate with other party leaders after the election results were almost complete, Ms. Solberg said: “We will all have to give and take.” Her aim is to form a four-party coalition with the right-wing populist Progress Party, the Liberals and the Christian Democrats.
Mr. Stoltenberg’s Labour Party and its two junior partners trailed with 72 seats, compared to the 86 they had in the outgoing parliament.
“We failed to achieve our goal of a third consecutive victory,” Mr. Stoltenberg told party members.
Labour was projected to win 55 seats, a loss of nine seats compared to the 2009 elections, based on 97 per cent of the vote.
“We achieved an election result worth respect. The Labour Party is the country’s largest, with a clear margin,” he said of the projected result of 30 per cent.
Mr. Stoltenberg said his government would tender its resignation October 14, after presenting its budget.
He cited two factors in the election result: “a strong wish for change — eight years is a long period in Norwegian politics,” and that many Labour supporters stayed home.
The election is Norway’s first since the July 2011 killing spree by right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik.
The conservatives were on track to win 27 per cent of the vote, translating to 48 seats, 18 more than their previous mandate.
Ms. Solberg told cheering party members that she had telephoned the leaders of her potential coalition partners to congratulate them on their results and invite them to talks.
“We have four, five weeks to form a new government,” she said after voting Monday in her home city of Bergen, western Norway.
Despite the uproar over the deaths of 77 people — many of them teenage Labour Party supporters — as well as Breivik’s nationalistic propaganda during the trial, Norwegians appeared set to give the anti-immigration Progress Party an opportunity to join the government for the first time since it was founded in 1973.
Its leader, Siv Jensen, has campaigned on tightening immigration and asylum laws and spending more of the income from Norway’s oil and gas wealth.
The Progress Party was projected to get 29 seats, a loss of 12 seats compared to the elections four years ago.
“For the first time in the Progress Party’s history, we will sit down and discuss a government platform,” Ms. Jensen told party faithful, emphasizing that the result was the party’s third—best ever.
Ms. Jensen said her party would be “tough but realistic negotiators.” The projections showed that Solberg will need support from either the centrist Liberals or the Christian Democrats to secure a majority.
“This gives Solberg some room to maneuver,” said public broadcaster NRK’s political commentator Kyrre Nakkim.
Of Mr. Stoltenberg’s junior partners since 2005, the Socialist Left Party had the weakest showing, dropping four of its 11 seats, while the Centre Party was projected to lose one of its 11 seats.
The Greens were on track to win their first-ever seat in the legislature.
Around 3.6 million people were eligible to vote in the country of 5 million.