Elections mobilize Swedes in Norway

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Norway’s next-door neighbour was gearing up for major elections to fill its Riksdag this weekend, and the thousands of Swedes living and working in Oslo and other Norwegian cities were being called upon to get out and vote. Interest was high among Norwegians as well.

Mona Sahlin, leader of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, answers question during an interview with Reuters at her party headquarters in Stockholm September 15, 2010. To match interview SWEDEN-SAHLIN/ REUTERS/Bob Strong (SWEDEN - Tags: POLITICS)

Norway has been drawn into the Swedish elections in a variety of ways. Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg traveled over to Sweden last week to campaign on behalf of his social democratic colleague Mona Sahlin (PicApp photo). She was was hoping, meanwhile, that Swedes who’ve moved to Norway because of high unemployment at home would give her Socialdemokraterna party a boost. Informal exit polls taken outside the Swedish Embassy in Oslo, where many Swedes were voting this week, indicated Sahlin will be disappointed. Newspaper Dagsavisen reported a stream of comments coming from Swedish citizens who said they’d voted for one of the four parties making up the non-socialist coalition Alliansen led by the Swedish Conservatives (Moderaterna).

Sweden's Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt gives a thumbs up after addressing a group of Moderate Party workers outside their headquarters in Stockholm September 16, 2010. Sweden will hold national elections on September 19. REUTERS/Bob Strong (SWEDEN - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

“I’m relying most on (current Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik) Reinfeldt (PicApp photo) and Alliansen,” said one voter. According to another: “Alliansen should definitely get another chance.” And another: “Yeah, it was blue (conservative) for me.”

One man told Dagsavisen: “Excuse me, but there really isn’t anyone in Sweden who wants Mona Sahlin as Swedish prime minister, is there?” He declined, though, to give his name.

Camilla Buzaglo, press adviser for Sahlin, told Dagsavisen that they nonetheless hope the Swedes living in Norway would lend their support to the hard-pressed Sahlin. “We see the Swedes in Norway as potential voters who will vote for us,” Buzaglo said. “Many young Swedes have moved to Norway because of the high unemployment. The current government hasn’t managed to do anything about it, but we have tackling unemployment as our highest priority.”

Record numbers of Swedes have indeed cast their ballots, with at least 300 a day streaming through the embassy since Monday. But most expressed support for Reinfeldt’s coalition, which has been leading the public opinion polls. “For me, it’s very important that the right side wins this election,” Emily Johansson told Dagsavisen. “Only Alliansen can create more jobs in Sweden.”

Just over the border, in Strömstad, meanwhile, Norwegian real estate buyers have become an election issue themselves and given rise to a political party keen on restricting sales and development of projects catering to relatively affluent Norwegians. Local interests are unhappy over how the Norwegian market has forced prices up to a level that locals no longer can afford. They also want to keep their scenic coastline from falling into more private Norwegian hands.

Several Norwegian political leaders were heading for Sweden to help their Swedish counterparts with last-minute campaigning and to be on hand as results come in Sunday night. Erna Solberg, head of Norway’s Conservative Party (Høyre) was traveling to Stockholm Saturday night to follow her sister party Moderaterna on Sunday. Martin Kolberg and Helga Pedersen of the Labour Party were traveling to Stockholm on Sunday, to take part in the Socialdemokraternas election watch at the Tekniska Museet Sunday evening.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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