As the soul-searching goes on in the aftermath of last summer’s terrorist attacks in Norway, one thing is clear: The vast majority of Norwegians still have faith in Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. Heads may roll following a harshly critical report on how police responded to the attacks, but they likely won’t include Stoltenberg’s.
Fully 72 percent of those questioned in a survey conducted by research firm Norstat for Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) said they think Stoltenberg should not resign because of the criticism. The survey asked directly whether Stoltenberg should step down, and only 21 percent said ‘yes.'” An overwhelming 81 percent of those under age 50 said he should continue as the country’s top political leader, as did 63 percent of those over age 50.
Stoltenberg said he viewed the survey results as a sign that he now must work towards carrying out the recommendations made in the critical report, to improve security and preparedness in Norway and “change a culture,” and what Stoltenberg called “our attitude towards risk.” Many have conceded after the attacks that Norwegians have been too naive and trusting, thinking terrorist attacks could never happen on Norwegian soil. They did, and Stoltenberg says he has responsibility for preventing them from occurring again.
Stoltenberg told the July 22 Commission that released its scathing report on Monday that he had thought there was an increased danger for terror in Norway. He faced both political and professional disagreement, however, over what should be done to boost security and said it had been “time-consuming” to arrive at any conclusions. Norwegian politicians at both ends of the political spectrum have been reluctant to approve measures that they felt would reduce their openness and accessibility.
NRK’s survey also asked how Norwegians would characterize Stoltenberg’s work in securing Norway against terror prior to July 22. They were evenly divided on whether it was “poor” or “good” (45 and 41 percent respectively).
Stoltenberg was widely praised, both within Norway and internationally, for how he led the nation immediately after the attacks. When the commission’s report directed harsh criticism at how the police responded to the attacks, and at the lack of security around government ministries, questions rose immediately over whether Stoltenberg and the left-center government he leads should resign. There have been no direct demands for his resignation from opposition politicians, however, and Stoltenberg himself said he wanted to carry on and work to act on the commission’s recommendations.
Extraordinary session of Parliament
He also has asked for an extraordinary session of Parliament, to address its members on how the government will follow up on the July 22 Commission’s report. The parliament’s leadership said it would convene a special session as soon as possible, ahead of the scheduled opening of Parliament on October 1.
Calls were rising, meanwhile, for resignations among leaders of the state police, which were pilloried in the report for their failure to respond quickly enough to the attacks, for failing to communicate with one another, even for hesitating to head for the island of Utøya where a massacre was underway. The commission confirmed that many lives could have been saved if the police had acted more quickly and efficiently.
Some leadership experts, including a professor at the Norwegian Business School BI, named top veteran police leaders who they think should step down. They also called for a change in police attitudes. Instead of closing ranks and insisting they’d done all they could in a time of crisis, it’s being demanded that the police admit their faults, make improvements and do a better job of protecting the population.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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