Incumbents win exit polls

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Norway’s incumbent red-green, left-center coalition government won the most votes in exit polls conducted by Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). It was too early to celebrate an election victory, but the exit polls clearly put the Socialist Left (SV) party in a good mood.

“We did all we could to mobilize folks,” said Bård Vegar Solhjell of SV and education minister in the current left-center coalition government. “This looks very, very good.”

SV leader Kristin Halvorsen, currently Norway’s finance minister, was thrilled by the exit poll results, which gave her party two more seats in parliament than it has now. “If the election results stay the same, we will have saved Norway from right-wing politics,” she told cheering supporters Monday as results started to come in.SV had been among the parties most worried about election results, as public opinion polls indicated they were losing favour with voters. NRK’s exit polls, conducted all over the country as voters emerged from polling places on Monday, gave them 9.8 percent of the vote and 17 seats in parliament (called mandater in Norwegian).

The current government’s dominant partner, Labour, remained Norway’s largest party, with 31.8 percent of the vote and 56 seats in parliament according to the exit polls. That’ was down, though, from Labour’s current 61 seats in parliament.

The third government partner, the small Center Party (Sp), logged 6.8 percent of the vote and 12 seats parliament, one more than it now has.

All told, this would have given the current ruling coalition 48.4 percent of the vote and 85 seats in parliament, exactly the number needed to win control.

On the other side of the political spectrum, meanwhile, the Progress Party (Frp) remained Norway’s second-largest party in the exit polls. Frp won 21.6 percent of the vote and 39 seats in parliament, one more than it has now and far more than its closest non-socialist rival the Conservatives (Høyre) .

Høyre, which commentators had claimed “won the campaign,” had some of the wind knocked out of its sails by the exit polls. They left Høyre with 15.1 percent of the vote and 26 seats in parliament, three more than it has now but not as many as hoped.

The two other non-socialist parties fared poorly, with the Christian Democrats (Krf) logging just 6 percent of the vote, its worst result ever, and 10 seats in parliament, down from 11 now. The Liberal Party (Venstre) , claimed 4.5 percent and eight seats in parliament, two less than it has now.

The exit polls thus suggested that Høyre, Krf and Venstre together would only have 25.6 percent of the vote, nearly half of the red-green coalition. If Høyre cooperated with the Progress Party, they’d have 36.7 percent and if all the non-socialist parties could get together, they’d have 48.2 percent, still slightly less than the red-green coalition and with 83 seats in parliament compared to the socialists’ 85, which rises to 86 when the small Reds party is included.

One thing was clear, two hours before more officials election results were to be available: The race was extremely tight, margins small and, as Halvorsen said, “it’s going to be an incredibly exciting election night.”

(Her mood later was much subdued … see the election results story and graphic, Four more years with Jens .)