Labour gathers campaign troops

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The Norwegian Labour Party’s secretary Raymond Johansen opened the garden of his home in Oslo over the weekend to welcome party leaders and drum up enthusiasm for the election campaign ahead. They’re all hanging on to the belief that thousands of voters won’t make up their minds until the days or even hours before they’re in the voting booth.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg posed with his fellow cabinet members at the campaign garden party hosted by party secretary Raymond Johansen on Sunday. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (center, in jacket) posed with his fellow cabinet members at the campaign garden party hosted by party secretary Raymond Johansen on Sunday. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet

Labour has been trailing in public opinion polls for months, with 28 percent of the vote compared to the Conservative Party’s 31.6 percent, according to the average of July polls reported by newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN).  After two terms and eight years in office, the party seems to be suffering from voter fatigue and Labour’s two government coalition partners, the Center Party and the Socialist Left, are doing even worse. Recent polls have suggested they may not even win representation in Parliament.

Labour Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg refuses to give up hope, though, that he can keep his job for a third term. Now he and his party colleagues are promising what they’re calling the biggest grass-roots campaign in Norwegian history.

Knocking on doors
Over barbecued food and salads, Johansen admitted “we’re lying a bit behind, so now we just need to roll out what we have. It will be a lot of work.” In his pep talk to the party’s top politicians, he stressed that 64 percent of all voters will decide who they’ll vote for during the campaign, and that amounts to around a million people.

He and other Labour politicians plan to visit 500,000 households around the country and hand out a million roses to woo voters. Labour ministers and party leaders will take part in more than 1,000 events over the next five weeks until the election is held on Monday September 9.

News bureau NTB reported that another 13,000 volunteers will also campaign on behalf of Labour, in line with Johansen’s major strategy for winning votes: “Elections are won by meeting folks face to face,” he told NTB. “We have to get out and talk with people and listen to people and present our solutions.”

‘Not impossible’
A sun-tanned Stoltenberg himself claims he’s not only prepared but looking forward to the campaign. “A hundred thousand voters will decide in the hours and days before the election,” he said. “It’s not certain we’re going to win the election, but it’s not impossible either.”

He’s already used time in recent weeks to travel around Norway and has made several public appearances, not least during the July 22 memorials last month, to honor those killed and injured during the twin attacks on the Labour-led government and its youth group two years ago.

“Along with the problems folks present me with, there are things we can solve together,” he said. “That’s what elections are all about.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund