Høyre hits new heights in new poll

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Never before has Norway’s Conservative Party (Høyre) had so much support in a public opinion poll or an election: The party held 40.1 percent of the vote in Norway as of early last week, a level that even Høyre leader Erna Solberg called “unreal.”

Høyre leader Erna Solberg, shown here campaigning during municipal elections in 2011, seems to be getting a taste of what it would be like to win the national elections, and become Norway's new prime minister. PHOTO: Høyre

Høyre leader Erna Solberg, shown here campaigning during municipal elections in 2011, seems to be getting a taste of what it would be like to win the national elections, and become Norway’s new prime minister. PHOTO: Høyre

Solberg was smiling, but nonetheless cautious over the results of the latest public opinion poll conducted by research bureau Respons Analyse for newspaper Aftenposten. It asked potential voters “If there was a parliamentary election held tomorrow, which party would you vote for?”

Høyre got the nod from 40.1 percent of those answering, up 5.4 percentage points from the last poll in December. The Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet, Ap), which now leads the current left-center government coalition, wound up with 26.5 percent, down 1.7 points, while the conservative Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) fell 2.3 points to land at just 10.7 percent of the vote.

The Liberal Party (Venstre), also on the non-socialist side of Norwegian politics, crept up 0.6 points to 6 percent while all the other small parties represented in parliament slipped. The Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkepartiet, KrF) fell to 4.9 percent and the two parties that currently share government power with Labour (the Socialist Left and the Center Party) fell below the 4 percent needed for representation in parliament, to just 3.8 percent and 3.6 percent respectively.

Høyre’s dominance was still met with subdued satisfaction from Solberg, who told newspaper Aftenposten that it was “difficult” to be jubilant over her party’s strong showing when the country is still gripped with uncertainty over the fate of Norwegians caught in the terrorist attack on a gas plant in Algeria that began last week.

The poll itself was conducted between January 14-16, just before the attack set off a hostage crisis that Labour Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has tried to monitor from afar and reassure the nation at the same time. Stoltenberg has proven himself good in a crisis, and won widespread praise for his leadership following the terrorist attacks in Norway on July 22, 2011. Voters today may have had different answers to the pollster’s question than they had just a few days ago.

Thore Gaard Olaussen, leader of Respons Analyse, however, told Aftenposten the poll’s extraordinary showing for Høyre was reliable and confirmed poll results of 37- and 38 percent in August and September. He noted that many Labour and Frp voters are still moving over to Høyre, and that Høyre is mobilizing voters who didn’t vote in municipal elections in 2011.

Solberg, like most politicians, was careful to point out that a poll is not an election, but allowed herself to be impressed that her party had crossed over into “the 40-numbers” and that “many feel that eight years” for the current incumbent government are enough.

“This is first and foremost an expression that the Norwegian people want a change of government,” Solberg told Aftenposten. If the polls translate into election results in September, she’ll be Norway’s new prime minister and would only need support from one or two of the small parties to have a majority. She continues to claim, though, that she wants to lead a government formed by all four non-socialist parties: Høyre, Frp, Venstre and KrF.

“Our wish is a four-party government,” she told Aftenposten. “You won’t get me to say anything else.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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