Residents of Oslo are due to vote over whether their city should apply to host the Winter Olympics (OL) in 2022, but officials at City Hall may be discriminating against roughly 50,000 resident foreign nationals in Oslo set to be excluded from voting. The Olympic referendum is scheduled to take place in connection with national elections and rules of the latter apply, creating problems.
The national, parliamentary elections on September 9 will locally include a rare referendum in Oslo to vote for or against an Oslo Olympic application. City officials bowed to pressure from the conservative Progress Party, which insisted as part of a city budget compromise last fall that taxpayers be consulted directly about whether the city should spend billions of tax money on an Olympic Games.
In addition to the referendum at national polling places in Oslo, city officials are also promising to listen to a proposed school referendum on the issue that will let 16-year-olds express their opinion on the matter as well. The majority there is viewed as likely to vote in favour of an Olympics, but the opinions of tens of thousands of adult taxpayers with foreign passports risk being ignored because they are only allowed to vote in local elections, not national elections. Since the city is conducting its local referendum through the national election platform, foreigners with permanent resident permission in Norway still look likely to be excluded.
Now a national organization against public discrimination (Organisasjonen mot offentlig diskriminering, OMOD) claims the pending exclusion is discriminatory against foreigners. OMOD has urged The Equality- and Anti.discrimination Ombud (Likestillings- og Diskrimineringsombudet, LDO) to make an evaluation, reports Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
Manager Åsulv Solstad at LDO told NRK that some rules may apply indirectly on the basis of national origin. “One question is whether it is particularly disadvantageous for citizens of Oslo who have the right to vote at local elections but not at Parliamentary elections,” Solstad said.
Anita Rathore at OMOD believes all eligible voters in Oslo, also those with foreign passports, should be included in the name of democracy. “If democracy matters, one cannot simply say this is complicated and put it away,” Rathore told NRK.
The gigantic costs of an Olympics prompted the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, FrP) last year to demand the referendum, fearing it would come at the expense of schools, nursing homes, day care centers and other city services. Referenda are not common in Norway where most major decisions are left to politicians.
The Conservative Party (Høyre, H), The Norwegian Christian Democratic Party (Kristelig Folkeparti, KrF) and The Liberal Party (Venstre, V) are governing the city of Oslo and work with the Progress Party on many issues, to give them majority.
The Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet, AP) wants the foreigners to be included in the elections, while The Socialist Left (Sosialistisk Venstreparti, SV), which originally voted against applying for the Olympics, now wants to include everyone from 16 years of age. The minimum age to vote in Norway is 18 years.
Surveys show that public support for an Olympics has fallen markedly since the euphoria after the Nordic Skiing World Championships at Holmenkollen in 2011, with many dreading the huge costs and saying the future use and need for the Olympic facilities are highly uncertain.
Views and News from Norway/Aasa Christine Stoltz
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