Election campaign heads home

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Politicians from all of Norway’s various parties have now started reaching out directly to voters, and many aim to ring thousands of doorbells in the weeks running up to the September 14 election. Campaign promises and proposals, meanwhile, are running thick.

The politicians and their campaign workers freely admit they’re borrowing tactics from the successful election campaign run by Barack Obama’s team in his run for the US presidency. It remains unclear, however, whether often-reserved Norwegians who traditionally are wary of strangers will respond well to politicians calling on them at home.

“I think it’s inappropriate,” 62-year-old Astrid Skår of Karihaugen told newspaper Aften when asked what she thinks about politicians going door-to-door. “I think they’re intruding on people’s privacy and I’d rather get information about the party platforms myself.”

None of those questioned in random interviews seemed receptive to the idea of having a politician or campaign worker turn up on their doorstep. “I personally wouldn’t want such a visit,” said Synnøve Sandstå, age 49, of Oppegard. Bjørn Olav Lunde, age 24, said it was “a bit unnecessary. I think many will view it as intrusive.”

Celebrity visit

It can all depend, of course, on who actually rings the bell. When the foreign minister himself, Jonas Gahr Støre of the Labour Party, called on retiree Marie Thoresen of Oslo right in the middle of the nightly national TV newscast, her response was “Are you here, too?” She’d just seen him on the news, and gladly accepted one of the 80,000 roses that Labour Party faithful intend to hand out to voters in Oslo over the next few weeks.

Støre himself, who has to add campaigning to the international affairs agenda he deals with every day, said he initially felt uncomfortable “disturbing strangers” in their homes. Now he thinks it’s an important means of reaching out and mobilizing voters to cast their ballots.

Barrage of valgflesk

The traditional barrage of campaign promises and new proposals (often called valgflesk in Norwegian) is also well underway. In the past few days, for example, the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) has claimed it wants to restrict begging on the streets, lengthen the maximum jail term for murder from 21 to 30 years, and invest heavily in better care for the elderly.

The small Center Party (Sp) wants to reduce fortune taxes for sole proprietors, while the even smaller Liberal Party (Venstre) wants to build more subsidized student housing in the heart of the waterfront redevelopment project near the new Opera House in Oslo.

The Socialist Left (SV) even disclosed it will challenge the Labour Party, currently one of its government coalition partners, on new EU directives and resist more EU influence in Norway. That comes at the risk of keeping the sometimes shaky coalition intact.

The minister currently in charge of running the election itself, meanwhile, also found time to promise that anyone falling ill with, for example, swine flu on Election Day will be able to vote from home. Early and absentee voting is already underway.