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Labour fails to mobilize supporters

Norway’s Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet, Ap) doesn’t seem to be getting much voter gratitude for its success at keeping unemployment low and mostly avoiding the ill effects of the finance crisis. The party’s secretary has had to swallow new poll results that now threaten Labour’s dominance.

Labour Party secretary Raymond Johansen was clearly disappointed by the new public opinion poll. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet

“This shows that many of those who voted for us (at the last election) aren’t completely satisfied,” Labour secretary Raymond Johansen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Thursday, after an NRK poll showed that the Conservative Party is now Norway’s largest.

“It’s clear that it’s important to be the largest party,” Johnsen said. “And it’s also important to do better in the polls than we’re doing now.”

Only 26.8 percent of those questioned in the poll said they’d vote for Labour today, down from the 35.4 percent that won re-election for Labour Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and his two coalition partners (the Socialist Left and Center parties). The Socialist Left, which had won 6.2 percent of the vote last September, also lost a lot of its support in the latest poll, down to 4.2 percent, while the Center Party fell from 6.2 percent to 5.8 percent.

“We’re not managing to mobilize the social democratic voters to a high enough degree,” said Johansen. 

The coalition has been harshly criticized of late, not least over its environmental position. Many voters expected it to halt attempts to drill for oil off Lofoten, to prevent Statoil from taking part in a controversial oil sands project in Canada, to block construction of power lines over Hardanger and to follow through on construction of a highly touted carbon capture project at the Mongstad refinery. That hasn’t happened, at least not yet.

Stoltenberg and his government colleagues have played a major role in international climate talks, however, and weathered the financial crisis well. Asked why voters are so dissatisfied given Norway’s low unemployment rate and other relative strengths, Johansen said the government parties were failing to make clear enough “the fact that we do have the lowest unemployment rate (in Europe) and that Norway is doing very well.”

He noted that one of the risks of sitting in the government as long as Stoltenberg’s government has (five years) “is that we often have to defend everything that’s been done, and how Norway functions.

“The essence of politics is that we don’t win based on what we’ve done,” Johansen concluded. “We win by being believed that we’ll do what we shall do.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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