Conservatives, OL win school elections

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UPDATED: Norway’s Conservative Party (Høyre) scored what some were calling an “historic” victory on Tuesday when it won the nationwide school elections that poll teenage students all over the country. Students in Oslo also seemed to support local officials’ bid to spend billions to host the Winter Olympics (OL) in 2013.

Results were still being tallied Wednesday morning, but with more than half of the 18 high schools in the Oslo area that took part in the election reporting, votes were running 61 percent in favour of the OL project. It would have been devastating for boosters of the OL bid if students had turned it down, and backers were quick to comment that their parents now shouldn’t disappoint the younger generation by not supporting an OL as well. Polls of Oslo voters who’ll need to pay for all the new facilities needed for an Olympics have been running strongly against the project. An OL referendum is being held in conjunction with the national election on Monday.

It was the first time, meanwhile, that Høyre won the highly symbolic “skolevalget,” and Høyre leader Erna Solberg was delighted. The school elections for political parties running for seats in parliament are considered an important indicator of national election results.

“I think we scored so well among the youth because we have one of the best youth organizations, Young Høyre,” Solberg told state broadcaster NRK after results clicked in from polling places at 390 high schools around Norway. “This is a sign that we have the election winds with us.”

Both big parties did well
Høyre nabbed 28.3 percent of the vote, followed by the Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet, Ap) with 23.2 percent. Labour officials were also pleased, because the party traditionally does poorly in the school elections and felt their showing was much stronger than usual.

The conservative Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) ended as Norway’s third largest party once again, with 15.6 percent of the vote. That’s way down, however, from the party’s standing in the school elections of 2009, when it claimed 24 percent of the vote. Many of its voters at that time, it seems, have since moved over to Høyre, which gained 12 percentage points in Tuesday’s balloting.

Next in line was the Liberal Party (Venstre), claiming 6.6 percent of the vote, followed by the Socialist Left (SV) at 5.1 percent and, in a surprisingly strong showing, the new Pirate Party with 4.3 percent of the vote. That was more than the Center Party (Sp), which is a current member of the government coalition but only got 4 percent of the school vote.

Christian Democrats came in last
The far left Reds party (Rødt) tied with the environmental newcomer Miljøpartiet De Grønne (MDG) to claim 3.7 percent of the vote, while the Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti, KrF) were least popular with just 2.9 percent of the student vote. KrF nonetheless may become part of a Høyre-led non-socialist government coalition, and is especially keen to take over the finance ministry.

The nationwide high school elections are said to send “a very clear signal” about the looming outcome of the national parliamentary elections on Monday. They at the very least confirmed public opinion poll results that long have shown the non-socialist parties running well ahead of the current left-center coalition. All told, they’d have 53.4 percent of the vote, according to the school election results, compared to 32.3 percent for Labour, Sp and SV.

No ‘dark blue’ majority
Høyre and Frp lacked a majority alone, though, and the Christian Democrats’ poor showing wouldn’t give them a majority either. But together with Venstre, Høyre and Frp would eke out 50.5 percent of the vote and thus could form an albeit weak government.

Asked how important the school elections are, election researcher Anders Jupskås told NRK that they show how parties have won and lost support since the last national elections. Students are by no means as radical as in earlier years, he noted, which can also explain their new support for the Conservatives.

The actual national election for all citizens aged 18 and older will take place on Monday. Berglund