Norway heads to the polls for the final day of voting in a nail-biting election. Polls show a close fight between Norway's conservative and labor parties, each expected to grab roughly half of parliament's 169 seats.
Polls were scheduled to open in Norway at 9 a.m. local time for the second day of voting.
Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg plans to cut taxes if her coalition returns to power, while the opposition led by Labor leader Jonas Gahr Stoere wants tax hikes to pay for better public services.
The outcome of these elections is likely to have a major impact on Norway's crucial oil industry as one or more smaller parties in each of the coalition are seeking to impose limits on exploration in Arctic Ocean off Norway's coast.
Norway Elections at a glance:
- All 169 seats in the parliament up for grabs
- 3.76 million registered voters
- As many as nine parties expected to win seats under a system of proportional representation.
- Incumbent Erna Solberg of the Conservatives and Labor's Jonas Gahr Stoere face off for the top job
- Opinion polls show a close fight between the two blocs
- Taxes, public services and oil exploration among key issues
Opposition wants to take on inequality
Stoere, who cast his ballot on Sunday in Oslo, expressed confidence that his party could rally voters to clinch the election.
"We have to keep the qualities of Norway at its best - equity, work for all, good investment in health and education so that we remain a strong team," Stoere told reporters.
Stoere, who comes from a wealthy background, claims to champion the fight against inequality. He held key portfolios in his mentor and former Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's cabinets, serving as foreign minister and health minister.
Conservatives hope for historic first
Incumbent Solberg is expected to cast her ballot on Monday. She is hoping to become the first Conservative in over 30 years to win a second straight mandate.
In power since 2013, Solberg's coalition has promised continuity. Despite having trailed Stoere's bloc for much of the year, Solberg's government has witnessed a late turnaround in opinion polls thanks to Norway's gradual recovery from an economic slump, sparked off by a fall in oil prices. The oil and gas industry accounts for almost half of the country's export revenue.
"We have demonstrated over the past four years that we know how to handle difficult crises," she said during the campaign. "Unemployment is on the way down, growth is on the way up and we're creating more and more jobs," she said.
Exit polls and forecasts based on early votes will be made public on Monday at 1900 GMT. Experts say final results might come as late as Tuesday if the race goes down to the wire like opinion polls are predicting.
Cliffhanger of a contest
According to opinion polls, Solberg's four-party coalition may garner 85 seats, just enough for a majority in the 169-member parliament, while the opposition is expected to win 84 seats.
In such a tight race, it's the smaller parties that are expected to emerge as kingmakers. The election winner will have to meet their tough demands in order to remain in power over the next four years.
Two parties on the right, two on the left and one in the center, and the independent Greens are all expected to cross the 4-percent threshold that will boost their presence in parliament.
"It's exciting, and extremely close, so it's important for all to vote. Every ballot counts," Finance Minister Siv Jensen of the right-wing Progress Party told independent TV2 on Sunday.