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Exit polls in Norway point to center-right election win

Voting has closed in Norway's parliamentary elections. Early exit polls suggest that the opposition center-right coalition will take over from Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, as was widely expected before the ballot.

Norway's opposition Conservative party and its three potential coalition allies looked on course to win power on Monday evening, as preliminary results began to trickle in to Oslo.

A projection based on an official count of early votes indicated Erna Solberg's alliance was on course to win a combined 93 seats in Norway's 169-member parliament. Subsequent polls put the margin slightly higher, but all agreed that the right-of-center bloc would exceed the 85 seats required to govern.

Center-left Prime Minister Stoltenberg, in office since 2005, was trailing Solberg in the polls in the weeks leading up to Monday's vote.

Stoltenberg's Labor Party looked set to remain the country's largest, probably with just under 31 percent of the vote, despite defeat. Labor and its allies, the Socialist Party and the Center Party, had all lost ground in the polls before the election.

Precise coalition unknown

Solberg would be the most likely candidate for prime minister in a right-leaning coalition, and the anti-immigration Progress Party should prove her most necessary ally. Preliminary results pointed to the Progress Party scoring 16 percent of the vote as Norway's third-strongest party.

The Progress Party's right-wing stances might dissuade the smaller Christian Democrats and Liberals from joining a potential coalition government, or alternatively lead to a difficult union of all four parties.

Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in attacks on two sites tied to the Labor Party two years ago, was once a member of the Progress Party. He left saying the party was too soft.

msh/ccp (AP, dpa, Reuters)