Opposition loses its lead in the polls

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Finance Minister Siv Jensen’s Progress Party and Erna Solberg’s Conservatives have rebounded in the latest public opinion polls, taking back the lead that the Labour and Center parties have claimed earlier this year. Now it’s a close race as they all head into campaign mode ahead of the September parliamentary election.

Finance Minister Siv Jensen (left) and Prime Minister Erna Solberg, shown here announcing new proposals for managing Norway’s huge sovereign wealth fund earlier this year, have now seen their parties rebound in the polls. “Some people need to be careful about logging a victory too early,” Jensen said, referring to the opposition Labour and Center parties. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

Jensen’s Progress Party gained the most support last week following its national meeting, jumping nearly three full points in the poll conducted by research firm Respons for newspaper Aftenposten. They’re back up at 16.1 percent of the vote, close to what helped win them government power for the first time ever in 2013.

The Conservatives, meanwhile, gained 0.3 points to give them 23.9 percent of the vote. They weren’t thrilled but relieved to see that the non-socialist parties collectively finally had a majority, albeit slim, for the first time since January. “23.9 percent is a bit too low, we want to win more than we won in the last election (26.8 percent),” Trond Helleland, leader of the Conservatives’ delegation in Parliament, told Aftenposten. “But it’s a good starting point before we really kick off the election campaign.”

Jensen was pleased with her Progress Party’s rebound in the polls, suggesting that it reflected “a good national meeting” held the weekend before. “We had a very successful meeting with clear messages to the voters,” Jensen told Aftenposten. She also could reveal a revised state budget proposal for the year on Thursday that shows how Norway’s economy is also rebounding after the price of its most important export commodity, oil, collapsed in 2014.

“The voters see a government that has managed well through a difficult time,” Jensen said. “Now the economy is brighter and it’s lighting up faster than many thought it would.”

Resurgent Center Party flattens out
Labour also edged up in the poll, to 30.9 percent of the vote, but that’s low for the party that has been Norway’s largest for years and that once famously set 36.9 percent as the minimum needed to form a government.

More significant was a decline for the farmer-friendly Center Party, that had been on a roll since the middle of last year. After winning just 5.5 percent of the vote in the 2013 election, the regulatory- and protectionist-oriented Center Party surged into the double digits and looked at one point like it could form a majority coalition with Labour alone. In Aftenposten’s new poll, it slipped and wound up with 11. 4 percent of the vote, and some political commentators thinking it’s already peaked out.

“The Center Party consolidated its strong numbers from April, but it may have hit its ceiling,” Idar Eidset of Respons, which conducted the poll, told Aftenposten.

Trond Giske, deputy leader of the Labour Party, said the voters now have a clear choice regarding which direction they want Norway to take over the next four years, by veering to the left or the right. “We have always said this is going to be a close election” Giske told Aftenposten. “This poll shows just how close. It will be a question of how well each side mobilizes between now and September.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund