Conservatives gain and gather

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Conservative Party leader Erna Solberg could gather her flock for their annual national meeting in Oslo this weekend, buoyed by new public opinion polls showing a fresh surge of voter support. While British voters expected a change of government, Conservative winds seem to be blowing in Norway as well.

Conservatives leader Erna Solberg during last year's election campaign. PHOTO: Høyre

A new poll conducted by research firm Norstat for Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) indicates that the Conservatives (Høyre) have support from 23.4 percent of Norwegian voters. That’s up 6.2 percentage points since the results of last fall’s national election.

The Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp), Norway’s most conservative, remained slightly larger, at 24.1 percent. While that’s down a point from the last opinion poll, it’s still higher than Frp’s record strong election results last fall and together, the Conservatives and the Progress Party would have a solid majority in Parliament if an election were held today.

The two parties on the relatively right side of Norwegian politics also seem to be agreeing on more issues after years of quarreling. Conservatives leader Solberg, for example, called this week for more power for local governments in what newspaper Aftenposten called a “municipal revolution.” Solberg wants to hinder the state (federal) government’s ability to override decisions made by “elected, local officials,” and Progress Party leader Siv Jensen hailed the initiative.

“I think it’s wonderful that Høyre, for the first time, is so clear about what Fremskrittspartiet has been saying for many, many years,” Jensen told Aftenposten on Friday. She believes local politics have been wrongly overpowered by state politics for years.

Asked whether the potential for government cooperation between Høyre and Frp was strengthened, Jensen replied that “it’s at any rate not weakened.”

With a combined 47.5 percent of the vote, compared to the NRK poll’s 42.2 percent for the current government coalition, Høyre could start its annual meeting at the Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel in Oslo on a high note on Friday. The Conservatives could also be cheered by indications that its voters are the most loyal in Norwegian politics. More than 90 percent of those who voted for Høyre last fall claimed they’d do so again now.

The conservative momentum comes after a week of headlines when the current government has been blasted over a variety of issues, not least delays over construction of a carbon recapture facility at the Mongstad power plant, and by internally divisive issues including oil exploration off the northern coast and management of the wolf population in Norway.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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