Norway’s voters turn to the right

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Erna Solberg, head of Norway’s Conservative Party, has reason to smile. A new public opinion poll conducted for newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) shows that Norway’s two most conservative political parties now command nearly 53 percent of the vote, bad news for the current left-center government coalition.

The Conservatives' leader Erna Solberg on the campaign trail last year. She's doing better now. PHOTO: Høyre

DN’s poll, conducted by Sentio Research Norge AS, gives another burst of clout for the opposition and indicates more voter dissatisfaction with the government coalition that won re-election just a year ago. Even though that coalition has guided Norway through the finance crisis, pumped more state funds into public sector projects than ever before and can brag about low unemployment at a time when the rest of Europe is reeling from economic trouble, Norwegian voters just don’t seem happy.

“This shows a continued desire in Norway for a change,” claimed Siv Jensen, leader of the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp), that now holds 24.8 percent of the vote according to DN’s poll.

Siv Jensen of the Progress Party has reason to smile as well. PHOTO: Fremskrittspartiet

Jensen’s party lies to the right of the Conservatives (Høyre), which claimed 28.1 percent of the vote in the DN poll, making it bigger than the Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet), which leads the current left-center government. Once bitter rivals, Høyre and Frp have been warming up to each other and no longer rule out forming a government together. Jensen and Solberg have even been posing for photos together, and their poll numbers, if translated into elections results, would give them more seats in Parliament than any government in Norwegian history, according to DN.

“This is very, very good,” Solberg told DN on Friday via telephone from Japan. She attributed her party’s strong showing in the poll to voter exasperation with the current government’s reluctance to listen to the opposition and alleged failure to come up with new ideas. “I think people get tired of it,” Solberg said. A recent verbal scolding from a Labour Party official wasn’t seen as “constructive debate, to put it mildly,” Solberg said.

Labour could claim 26.6 percent of the vote in the DN poll, with the rest of Norway’s parties winning no more than 5.4 percent (the Socialist Left, SV). The other government party, the Center Party, claimed only 4.4 percent, while the Christian Democrats got 4.2 percent and the Liberals (Venstre) 3.9 percent.

The poll shows how the smaller parties, which once played a major role in the center of Norwegian politics or could tip the balance in Parliament, have lost voter interest. That’s led to a demise of the center in favour of the opposite ends of the spectrum.

As Jensen of the Progress Party states herself, though, there will be many opinion polls before the next national election is held in 2013. A poll held earlier this month had a markedly different result, with Labour gaining and remaining Norway’s largest party.

“But we’re on course in relation to our strategy,” Jensen told DN. “This is very nice.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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