Strong support for Progress Party leader

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Her party fared poorly at the polls in the last municipal elections, but that didn’t dampen support within the ranks for their leader Siv Jensen. Members of the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) are counting on her to help them finally get a taste of government power when the next national elections roll around in 2013.

Siv Jensen has strong support as newly re-elected leader of the Progress Party. PHOTO: Fremskrittspartiet

Jensen was overwhelmingly re-elected as party leader at the Frp’s annual national meeting over the weekend, and she enjoyed a veritable flood of kudos along with the bouquets of flowers.

“Siv Jensen has solid support in the entire party,” Member of Parliament and deputy Frp leader Øyvind Korsberg told newspaper Aftenposten. “It was a fantastic national meeting with everyone looking forward and agreeing on the way forward.”

Another MP for Frp, Robert Eriksson, agreed. “I have the impression that Siv is standing strong in the entire party organization,” Eriksson said. The same “standing strong” description was also used by one of the leaders of the party’s Oslo chapter, Mazyar Keshvari.

“I think the annual meeting contributed towards strengthening her support,” said Terje Søviknes, the mayor of Os and a long-time local Frp leader in Hordaland. “She’s supreme as leader.”

Her predecessor, the often controversial Carl I Hagen, stayed away form the annual meeting for the first time ever this year. He’s still bitterly disappointed that Jensen didn’t push for him to win Frp’s spot on the Norwegian Nobel Committee, and he was also stung by a lack of support in his failed attempt to become mayor of Oslo last fall. Hagen was supposed to have retired from politics, but missed the spotlight and mounted a not entirely-successful comeback last year.

Hagen didn’t appear to be missed at the national meeting, which was almost surprisingly harmonious and showed signs that Frp is moderating some of its highly conservative views in an effort to appeal to more Norwegian voters. Jensen and the rest of Frp also have their eyes firmly set on winning enough votes next year to share government power with the Conservative Party (Høyre) in a new non-socialist coalition.

Jensen, age 42, seemed full of energy and was on the offensive at the meeting. She claimed Frp won’t support a government of which it’s not a member. Frp voted to opposed proposals in parliament that may forbid smoking rooms at work, chewing tobacco and tax-free sales of tobacco. They’ll also oppose more regulation that can boost the price of homebuilding. They want stronger border control with the Schengen (EU-EFTA) area of Europe and use of more oil revenues to invest in Norway. They’re still skeptical about climate change and not known for strong environmental advocacy. Jensen’s sister Nina, though, is the new head of Norway’s WWF chapter, so family dinner conversations are likely rather lively.

Much of the party’s earlier anti-immigration rhetoric has been dampened after last year’s terrorist attacks by a Norwegian anti-Islamist. Few expect Jensen to tread lightly for long, however. Her campaign is just beginning.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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