‘Jens has gained by being tough’

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Norway’s Labour Party, which leads the country’s coalition government, has gained voter popularity in recent weeks even though some of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s tough stands on recent issues were deemed unpopular. Voter support for the government as a whole, however, continues to wane.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and his Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet) seem to have gained ground by being tough. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet.no

Labour gained support in almost every public opinion poll taken in January, rising by as much as 4.8 points in the poll taken by newspaper Dagbladet, to 30.8 percent of the vote, and by 3.3 points in a poll taken by newspaper Vårt Land. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) notes that the average support for Labour now stands at 27 percent of the vote, up from 26.4 percent and enough to make Labour largest in the land once again at the expense of the opposition Progress Party.

Labour’s coalition partners, the Socialist Left (SV) and Center Party (Sp), however, continue to lose ground, garnering just 5.8 and 4 percent of the vote respectively. That gives the government support from 36.8 percent of the voters on average, not as much as the opposition parties have together and way down from the 47.7 percent that won them the election in 2009.

The poll results can still offer some comfort to Labour’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, however. He never wavered in his belief, for example, that Norway’s most popular asylum seeker Maria Amelie should be sent out of the country because she had stayed in Norway illegally. He said he respected the public’s right to protest her deportation, but there could be no exception to the rules in her case.

New polls now show the public eventually came around to his way of thinking, with support for Amelie’s deportation (carried out last week) gaining markedly in another recent poll.

Stoltenberg has also bucked the popular tide on the issue of power lines through the scenic Hardanger area, and that seems to be paying off as well. In addition to Labour gaining in the polls, far more Norwegians now support construction of power lines, with two-thirds of those questioned now saying the state should build the lines, up 11 points since September. In Hordaland County alone, where Hardanger is located, 56 percent support the power lines.

“Jens has gained by being tough,” commentator Arne Strand wrote in newspaper Dagsavisen on Tuesday. “His consistent stand in the Maria Amelie case has put wind in the sails of Labour … it clearly pays off that Stoltenberg has been hard in his asylum politics.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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