Drama high over party nominations

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Another dramatic nomination battle has raised tension within a Norwegian political party, this time involving the Socialist Left (SV), one of the parties forming Norway’s left-center government coalition. It was the latest in a string of challenges involving candidates nominated for precious seats in Parliament.

Akhtar Chaudhry, shown here with former SV leader Kristin Halvorsen, fought for a seat in Parliament, but lost Tuesday night. PHOTO: SV Oslo

There have been several such battles in recent weeks, as various politicians within the parties jockey for position and elected office. In Norway, it’s the parties that decide which people actually assume office, not members of the general voting public, who only get to vote for the parties themselves.

The latest battle pitted SV veteran Heikki Holmås, currently SV’s government minister in charge of development and foreign aid, against Akhtar Chaudhry, a longtime Oslo politician who was making a run at national office. He has what the Norwegians call “immigrant background” and thought he had a lot to offer by representing SV’s Oslo chapter at the national level as a full-fledged Member of Parliament. Chaudhry, who recruited many other non-ethnic Norwegians to the party in the hopes of winning their votes in the race against Holmås, has been serving as Holmås’ substitute MP since Holmås was named a minister earlier this year.

He ended up losing to Holmås, originally from western Norway, by a vote among party members of 395 to 301 for the seat in Parliament that may be the only one SV will get in next year’s elections, given the party’s low standing in public opinion polls. Chaudhry said he would now withdraw from national politics.

“Very many people who want minorities to be included are disappointed now,” Chaudhry said when the voting was over. “We can’t ignore that, and SV should work on that. The party had an opportunity to nominate a minority, but didn’t take it.”

The party does have four minority candidates among the top 10 persons on its nomination list for parliament, although it’s unlikely any will land be able to assume seats next fall.

Dramatic nomination battles have also surrounded Labour Party nominations in both Oslo and, most notably of late, in Tromsø, where the entire process has been postponed until after New Year following the sex scandal involving top candidate Roger Ingebrigtsen. In Oslo, Labour veteran Marit Nybakk nearly lost the seat she’s held for more than 20 years after a power struggle involving younger party members. Some party members felt she should make way for next generation of Labour politicians, especially some who survived last year’s terrorist attack on the island of Utøya, but Nybakk ended up winning.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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