Many voters remain undecided as election thriller looms

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With less than two weeks remaining until Norway’s next national election, polls indicate that fully a quarter of Norwegian voters still haven’t decided which party they’ll support. Analysts say a high voter turnout will be critical, with the successful parties being those that prod undecided voters into casting their ballots.

A new public opinion poll conducted by research firm Respons for newspaper Aftenposten indicates that fully 25 percent of eligible voters either haven’t chosen a party yet, or are likely to change their minds between now and election day on September 14.

Around a thousand voters were asked when they think they’ll make up their minds. As many as 7 percent said that will be on election day itself, while 18 percent expected to settle on a party during the week prior to the election.

That means 25 percent will remain undecided until just before the election. The poll indicated that about 60 percent already had decided.

Less party loyalty

Hanne Marte Narud, a political science professor at the University of Oslo, told Aftenposten that there’s been a growing tendency among voters to remain undecided until right before the election. Norwegian voters earlier were more loyal to a particular party, with a majority in the 1960s and ’70s deciding on a party even before the campaign begun.

Now the politicians have a solid chance to woo so many undecided voters that it clearly can swing the election. During the last national election in 2005, nearly half of those questioned said they made up their minds during the formal campaign, which in Norway generally runs for around six weeks prior to the election.

The two parties that seem to have won the most decisive voters are the Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkepartiet, Krf) and the Progress Party, with fully 85 percent of those saying they’ll vote Krf also saying that they won’t change their minds. The small Liberal Party (Venstre) has reason to be nervous, reports Aftenposten , with only 56 percent of those saying they’ll vote for Venstre also saying they won’t change their minds. That means 44 percent may wind up choosing another party.In Norway, where voter turnout is traditionally high, analysts like Narud predict that the 77.4 percent turnout of 2005 will be repeated. That was in fact considered rather low, and the politicians themselves are urging full turnout among eligible voters.

‘Bloody’ campaign

Campaigning, meanwhile, remains in high gear, with the two dominant rival parties Labour (Arbeiderpartiet) and the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet) fighting hard for votes from the older generation, among others. Incumbent Labour promises to strengthen rights and care for the elderly, although many complain that it’s become even more difficult to secure nursing home places, for example, during the last four years when Labour has led Norway’s left-center coalition. The Progress Party has long championed care for the elderly, which form a large voting bloc in the country.

Campaigning turned into a literally bloody affair for one of the top officials of Labour’s government partner, the Socialist Left (SV). Erik Solheim, currently Norway’s cabinet minister in charge of foreign aid and environmental issues from SV, got so enthusiastic about cutting carbon emissions that he cut himself instead. Politicians from various parties were symbolically trying to see how many balloons they could cut up with scissors when Solheim jabbed a scissor into his own arm. He had to be taken to a local emergency clinic, where he received four stitches. The balloon-cutting event was quickly deflated.