Voter turnout lower than expected

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Election analysts had been expecting record voter turnout in this week’s local elections around Norway, and early voting was much higher than in previous elections. The latest figures for voter turnout, however, were disappointing.

They indicate that 62.9 percent of those qualified to vote in Norway actually cast ballots. Lebesby township in the northern county of Finnmark had the country’s lowest voter turnout, with 53.2 percent of its 1,033 qualified residents heading for the polls. Those living in Kjøllefjord in Lebseby linked the low turnout to broad political agreement in the small community, however, not political apathy.

At the last town council meeting in Kjøllefjord, all items on the agenda were passed unanimously. “I think that the political peace we have is one of the reasons,” Stine Akselsen of the Labour Party, who was re-elected as mayor, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “Folks think they have a good life, and then they think things can just continue as before.”

In relatively nearby Berlevåg, however, 83.3 percent of qualified voters cast ballots, while voters in Hordaland County, far to the south and home to Bergen, actively exercised their voting rights as well. Residents of Fedje township in Hordaland could boast the highest voter turnout in the country, at 86.4 percent, followed by Berlevåg and Røyrvik in Nord-Trøndelag, with 81.3 percent turnout.

Three other townships in Hordaland made it into the Top 10 townships with highest voter turnout: Modalen and Samnanger (both with 78.4 percent) and Masfjorden (78.1 percent).

All told, there are 3,799,742 persons qualified to vote in local elections in Norway. A total of 525,960 voted early, and 2,389,445 persons had voted by the time polls closed on Monday evening.

In Oslo, the voter turnout rate was 60.3 percent, much lower than what politicians had hoped for following the July 22 terrorist attacks. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg had exhorted residents to respond to the attacks on Norway’s democracy with “more democracy, more openness, more compassion…” and he felt the best way to do that was by voting.

Anders Todal Jenssen, a political science professor at NTNU in Trondheim, said he thinks politicians’ efforts to conduct a dignified election campaign after the terrorist attacks led to voters simply getting bored. “The campaign was a bit too nice,” he told NRK. It was also cut short by the attacks, and there was less time to engage voters.

“Many had hoped the election would be a manifestation of people’s willingness to defend democracy,” Jenssen said. “But that didn’t happen.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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