Erna Solberg’s Conservative Party (Høyre) is now more popular with voters than Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s Labour Party, according to a new public opinion poll. It’s the first time in many years that the Conservatives now rank as the largest party in the country.
Solberg herself, who long has promoted herself as a candidate for prime minister, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Thursday that she thinks her party has “been good at talking about our own programs” and that “maybe the government isn’t doing especially well.”
She cited her party’s initiatives for lowering the crime rate and treating cancer patients, for example, while several political analysts linked the poll results to government slitasje – that voters are simply weary of the current government coalition that won re-election last fall.
The poll conducted by research firm Norstat for NRK shows the Conservatives winning 27.1 percent of the vote if an election were to be held today. That’s up nearly 10 full points from the party’s election result of 17.2 percent in September.
Labour, meanwhile, garnered 26.8 of the vote in the new poll, compared to the 35.4 percent that made it Norway’s dominant party and government coalition leader after the election. Its government partner, the Socialist Left, lost two full points from its election result, down to just 4.2 percent in the new poll, while Labour’s other partner, the Center Party, lost 0.4 points, landing at 5.8 percent of the vote. That means they collectively hold just 36.8 percent of the vote at present.
The poll results also give the Conservatives a solid gain over the more conservative Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp), which has been reigning as Norway’s second-largest party behind Labour and won 22.9 percent of the vote at the last election. NRK’s new poll leaves it with 23.5 percent of the vote, a gain nowhere near that enjoyed by the Conservatives.
The new rankings threaten Progress Party leader Siv Jensen’s own dreams of becoming prime minister, but her party and the Conservatives seem increasingly likely to cooperate on forming a new government if the non-socialists win at the next election in 2013 — or if Stoltenberg’s current coalition were to fall in the meantime. The current poll results raise the scenario of Solberg as prime minister and Jensen as finance minister, for example, with the two parties jointly holding 50.6 percent of the vote. That could allow them to form a government on their own, without needing clear cooperation from smaller parties in Parliament.
The politicians are always careful to downplay poll results, knowing full well that there’s a huge difference between what voters tell poll-takers and how they actually vote. But both Solberg and her deputy, Jan Tore Sanner, were delighted with the new NRK poll.
“It’s fantastic to be the biggest,” Sanner told NRK, saying he couldn’t remember that happening in an opinion poll for at least nine years. He thinks voters are disappointed that Stoltenberg’s left-center coalition “hasn’t met the major challenges within the schools, health care and transportation. At the same time, we present our solutions and alternatives.”
He also thinks the Conservatives have been “constructive” in opposition and that Solberg has exhibited “natural authority” on the non-socialist side.
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