Detailed counting of Monday’s voting in the Norwegian parliamentary election continued into Wednesday, but it wasn’t expected to affect results. The left-center government coalition led by Labour will have 86 seats in Parliament
(Stortinget) , compared to the non-socialist parties’ 83. Here’s a rundown of how each party fared at the hands of the voters.The Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet)
Motto: Alle skal med (roughly, “Everyone included”)
Labour was clearly the big winner in Monday’s voting, ending up with 35.4 percent of the vote and gaining three seats, for a total of 64, in the Parliament. That boosted Labour’s position as Norway’s biggest single party, and it’s likely to boost its position within the left-center coalition that Labour will lead. Labour’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre both enjoy wide personal popularity and respect across party lines, and many voters likely voted Labour to keep them in office. Stoltenberg noted that around 850,000 Norwegians (in a country of 4.5 million) voted for Labour and he linked the victory to a combination of “good old-fashioned methods” like knocking on doors and handing out roses. He also praised the use of newer methods, like the use of social media including Facebook and Twitter. “It made contact with people so much easier,” he said at a press conference the day after the election. “And it won the support of youth.”The Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp)
Motto: Frp fornyer Norge (Frp will renew Norway)
The Progress Party, Norway’s most conservative, held onto its position as the country’s second-largest party after Labour, winning 22.9 percent of the vote and 41 seats in Parliament, up from 38 now. Party leader Siv Jensen could claim “the best election in the party’s history,” can be the leader of the opposition in Parliament and mount a new offensive for the election in 2013. The party’s strong performance at the polls, though, was bittersweet because constant quarreling among Norway’s four non-socialist parties (of which the Progress Party is clearly the largest) ruined chances for them to cooperate on forming a government coalition of their own that might have ousted the Labour-led coalition. The non-socialists together had 49.5 percent of the vote, compared to the socialists’ 49 percent, including the tiny Reds party. The Progress Party was quick to blame Lars Sponheim, leader of the Liberal Party, for leaving Norway with a left-center government instead of a right-center one, since he was the most vociferous about refusing to cooperate with the Progress Party. His party lost badly (see below) .The Conservatives (Høyre)
Motto: Trygghet og optimisme (Security and optimism)
Many political observers viewed the Conservatives as the big winners in Monday’s voting, because they logged the biggest gain (3.1 percent) in voter support. The Conservatives ended with 17.2 percent of the vote and 30 seats in Parliament, up from 23 and a big jump in representation. They were thrilled, and party leader Erna Solberg could claim that “we’ll come back to Stortinget with a much stronger group.” But as with Jensen of the Progress Party, Solberg would have much rather won government power. She’d been more open to cooperating with Jensen and was disappointed the two other non-socialist party leaders wouldn’t. She thinks far too many voters were worried about “borgerlig kaos” (non-socialist chaos). “But we did well, we gained seats and we will continue to fight for better schools, transport and lower taxes,” she said.The Center Party (Senterpartiet, Sp)
Motto: Med hjerte for hele landet (The whole country in our hearts)
This small party that’s a champion of Norway’s rural districts fared typically poorly in the cities but won 6.2 percent of the national vote from outlying areas, not least the mountainous county of Sogn og Fjordane. It thus emerged as slightly larger than its government partner the Socialist Left (SV) and likely will try to exert more influence in the left-center coalition. Sp has traditionally been a centrist party, but turned left at the last election. It retained 11 seats in Parliament even though its actual voter support shrunk slightly (by o.3 percent). Sp may gain a ministerial post in the re-elected coalition and the media was speculating about the possible return of former Sp star Marit Arnstad, who could become either Finance Minister or Oil and Energy Minister.The Socialist Left (Sosialistisk Venstre parti, SV)
Motto: Ulike mennesker. Like muligheter (Different people. Equal opportunities.)
SV, led by current Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen, fared badly in the election, losing four seats in Parliament after it wound up with just 6.1 percent of the vote. That was down from 8.8 percent in the 2005 election. Halvorsen was happy the left-center coalition together got enough votes to continue, but disappointed over her own party’s performance and what that will likely mean within the coalition. SV is expected to lose a ministerial post and Labour may not need to listen as closely to her arguments against oil exploration off scenic Lofoten, for example. SV members fear SV will lose influence, contend it must take a tougher line within the government and drop out of the coalition if it’s forced to compromise on too many or key issues (like offshore drilling). Halvorsen put on a brave face, saying she was “ready to continue” in the coalition and that its politics were not purely Labour politics. She claimed that Labour did well because “people voted for Jens,” noting that the parties with prime minister candidates fared the best. “We have good arguments and SV will be the party with the environment as our number-one issue,” she said.The Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti)
Motto: Forskjørsrett for barna (roughly, “Children come first”)
This party, based on Christian and humanistic values, once claimed the prime minister’s office but now is a just a shadow of its former self. Voters turned their backs on the Christian Democrats, giving them just 5.6 percent of the vote and handing them their worst election results ever. The party will only have 10 seats in Parliament and some of its top leaders lost their spots. Party leader Dagfinn Høybråten refused to cooperate with the Progress Party and some party faithful have since said that was the wrong tactic. More willingness to cooperate on non-socialist politics could have left Norway with a different government. Høybråten said he had no explanation for the poor performance, other than that the “goodwill” showed during the campaign didn’t transform into votes. He says the party will be tougher on issues than it has been and is disappointed the Center Party turned left. He thinks Norway needs stronger centrist options.The Liberal Party (Venstre)
Motto: Kunnskap, miljø, velferd (Knowledge, environment, welfare)
Clearly the biggest loser in the parliamentary election, the Liberals ended with just 3.8 percent of the vote and lost eight seats in Parliament. That left them with just two, thanks only to some special rules for representation, and outspoken party leader Lars Sponheim immediately said he’d resign. He refused, though, to take responsibility for the non-socialist parties’ collective loss, claiming he’d still refuse to cooperate with the Progress Party because they’re too “extreme” on the conservative side. Sponheim, known for his bravado, has been a media darling of sorts, giving him publicity and power out of proportion to his party’s public support. Many were glad to see him go, not least Progress Party officials. Stoltenberg called
Sponheim’s departure and the party’s poor performance “rather sad,” but said he respected Sponheim’s decision to throw in the towel. “I will still have opinions,” Sponheim vowed, “but now it’s my wife who will hear them.” He’s recommended that Trine Skei Grande take over as party leader. She supported his refusal to cooperate with the Progress Party, despite the consequences that had.The Reds (Rødt)
Motto: En annen verden er mulig (Another world is possible)
The most left-leaning of Norway’s parties wound up with just 1.3 percent of the vote and no seats in Parliament. It had hoped to emerge as a swing vote if the left-center, red-green government needed it, but that didn’t happen.Monday’s election proved, politicians said, that every vote counts. Results were expected to be tight, and they urged Norwegians to head for the polls. When it was all over, around 72 percent had cast their ballot and “exercised their franchise,” a voter turnout that many countries would be happy with, but historically low in Norway.
Some observers blamed the relatively low turnout on the lack of a single, hot issue in the campaign, the quarreling among politicians and, not least, that Norwegians don’t have much to complain about. The economy is holding up during the financial crisis and “I think people just are too well off,” said one elderly resident of a nursing home in Oslo. “They don’t think they need to vote.”
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Only immigrants who have become Norwegian citizens are allowed to vote in parliamentary elections. All foreigners with residence permission in Norway can vote in local elections, but not in national elections or referenda.