Government losing popularity

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New public opinion polls are showing a major loss of voter support for the Labour Party, which leads Norway’s left-center coalition government. Labour has tumbled several points in the polls, probably because of looming budget cuts and signs of backtracking on campaign promises.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (center) was all smiles when his Labour-led coalition won re-election last September. Now voters aren't so supportive. At left, deputy party leader Helga Pedersen, and party secretary Raymond Johansen at right. PHOTO: SMK

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Thursday that Labour, headed by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, had lost five full percentage points in its latest poll, while newspaper Dagsavisen reported Labour has lost eight points since Election Night last September.

Labour now has support from just 27.3 percent of the voters, according to Dagsavisen’s poll, down 4.1 points from February, while government partners SV (Sosialistisk Venstreparti, the Socialist Left) dipped to 6.6 percent and SP (Senterpartiet, the Center Party) edged up a bit to 5.6 percent.

NRK’s poll showed a bigger loss for Labour, but both indicated voters would usher in a a clear non-socialist majority in Parliament if an election were held today. While the Conservative Party (Høyre) dipped to 24.3 percent, the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) jumped 2.8 points, making it Norway’s second-largest party behind Labour.

‘Being punished’
Labour’s deputy leader Helga Pedersen stressed that polls “go up and down” but she conceded that Labour likely is “being punished” for warning Norwegians that they’ll need to cut back on use of oil revenues, and that the next state budget will be much tighter than last year’s.

Budget cuts, Pedersen noted, aren’t popular, “but we need to do what’s right, both economically and to protect jobs.” 

Labour has also been criticized, however, for backtracking on the high environmental profile it mounted during last year’s campaign, and for signs that they won’t support a major increase in funding to Norway’s neglected train and highway systems. Last autumn’s government decision to remove tax exemptions from biodiesel fuel created a lot of anger and frustration.

“The government and Labour are letting us down on important issues,” voter Nina Prestegard told Dagsavisen. “It’s not surprising that they’re sliding. I’d like to see a change now, and think a Conservative/Progress Party government could be good.”

Others weren’t so harsh. “I don’t think they’ve done a bad job,” said Ragnhild Jordheim of Rykinn. “There are difficult issues, not least with the budget right now. I think it’s scary that the Conservatives and Progress Party are looking so strong right now.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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