New polls tip change of government

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New public opinion polls suggest that Norwegian voters are set to usher in a new, more conservative government. The Progress Party, Norway’s most conservative, continues to gain support and now ranks as largest in the country’s northernmost county of Finnmark.

A poll conducted by research firm Respons Analyse for newspapers in the A-presse group shows that the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) now has 34.5 percent of the vote in Finnmark. That’s double the amount of support Frp commanded in Finnmark in the last national election in 2005.

It also places them larger than the traditionally dominant Labour Party, which had support of 33.3 percent of Finnmark’s voters in the new poll. Labour was still largest in northern Norway as a whole, though, with 34.1 percent of the vote compared to 30.9 percent for Frp.

The big losers are all the smaller parties, especially the Socialist Left which stands to lose a seat in Parliament if the Finnmark poll results hold true in the September 14 election.

Other opinion polls show a clear majority in favor of non-socialist parties, again led by Frp. The Conservatives have gained some support in the past week, but the real battle is between Labour and Frp.Frp leader Siv Jensen has been on the offensive all year and not least all summer. Her efforts seem to be paying off. Now there’s a serious chance that Frp, either alone or by teaming with other non-socialist parties, may win government power.

The thought seems to be leading to no small degree of panic among long-time opponents, especially Lars Sponheim of the small Liberal Party (Venstre). He was back on the radio Friday, issuing doomsday messages of how even a vote for the Conservative Party could lead to Frp winning power, if the two team up. He and leaders of Norway’s other small parties, faced with being left on the sidelines, are urging voters to at least give them enough support to ensure some representation in Parliament if not in the government. Center Party (Sp) leaders have also been urging against too many votes for Labour, even though it sits in the current Labour-led government.

Their main problem is that many voters don’t seem to think an Frp government, which aims to “renew Norway,” would be such a bad thing as the small and socialist parties do. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, battling to keep his job, cautioned that opinion polls “go up and down,” and that there’s still a month to go before polls close.