Norway’s Conservative Party (Høyre) scored the biggest overall gain of any of Norway’s parties in the local elections that wrapped up on Monday, while Labour (Arbeiderpartiet) hung on as the country’s biggest single party. The parties on both the far right and far left suffered the biggest losses, with voters fleeing both the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) and the Socialist Left party (SV).
The election returns offered another signal that Norwegian politics is moving towards a system dominated by two big parties influenced by centrist forces. Leaders for both the Conservatives and Labour said they will seek cooperation with the small parties at the center, not least the Liberal Party (Venstre), which ended up as bigger than Frp in some cities including Oslo.
Election analysts linked election returns to a desire by voters to find comfort within the larger, more moderate parties, not least after the terrorist attacks on July 22.
The Conservatives’ huge gain
Official ballot counting was still going on Tuesday morning, and final numbers weren’t expected until Wednesday in some cities. With the vast majority of precincts reporting, however, the Conservatives could boast a gain of fully 8.8 percentage points from the last local elections in 2007, to claim 28 percent of the vote.
It’s widely believed that Norway’s relatively right-wing Progress Party (Frp) lost many of its voters to the Conservatives (Høyre), with the Progress Party logging the biggest single loss of six full points, to claim only 11.5 percent of the vote on a national basis. In Oslo, its numbers were even worse, landing at only 7.2 percent of the vote while the Conservatives soared nearly 11 points to claim 36.1 percent of the vote and retain the mayor’s seat. With Labour scoring an impressive gain in the country’s capital, however, negotiations must now begin among the parties to form a city government.
Labour still largest in the land
Labour, which had consistently led in the public opinion polls leading up to the election, remained Norway’s biggest party with 31.7 percent of the vote on a national basis, up two points from the local elections four years ago. It failed, however, to score the victory it wanted in the capital and lost in a few key cities like Tromsø and Drammen. While Labour leader and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg called the results “impressive” because parties in national government often lose at the local level, analysts claimed Labour didn’t do as well as expected.
The biggest government loser was the Socialist Left (SV), which fell two points to land at only 4 percent of the vote on a nationwide basis. It was the worst election for SV in years, leaving it the smallest of the major parties, and longtime SV leader Kristin Halvorsen said she would resign next spring to open the way for “renewal” from the next generation of SV politicians. Halvorsen, currently Education Minister in Norway’s left-center national government, said she hoped to continue in the coalition led by Stoltenberg.
Smaller parties squeezed but can sway
The third government party, the Center Party (Sp), also logged a disappointing election although Sp leaders tried to put a brave face on their loss of 1.1 points to claim 6.8 percent of the vote. Sp traditionally appeals to Norwegian voters outside the bigger cities, and wanted to do better in the local elections.
The Liberals (Venstre) were delighted with what party leader Trine Skei Grande said was “Venstre’s best election in 40 years,” winning 6.2 percent of the overall vote. The Liberals (generally considered a party on the conservative, or borgerlig, side of Norwegian politics despite the connotations its name has in countries like the US) halted a trend of major losses, as did the Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti, KrF), which held on to 5.6 percent of the vote. Both parties are now better positioned to gain more power at the local level by tipping the balance when city governments start being formed on the basis of election results.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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