Breivik lawyer tipped in Oslo mayor run

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The Oslo branch of the Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet, Ap) needs a star candidate to stand any chance of ousting popular long-term mayor Fabian Stang in the municipal elections next year. Party insiders are reportedly considering lawyer Geir Lippestad for the role, who rose to prominence when he represented convicted terrorist Anders Behring Breivik.

Lawyer Geir Lippestad has been a long-term Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet, Ap) member, pictured here addressing the national party conference last year. Lippestad became prominent when he defended confessed terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, and has since become chair of new left-leaning think tank, Agenda. Party sources have tipped Lippestad as a candidate for Oslo mayor in council elections next year. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet

Lawyer Geir Lippestad has been a long-term Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet, Ap) member, pictured here addressing the national party conference last year. Lippestad became prominent when he defended confessed terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, and has since become chair of new left-leaning think tank, Agenda. Party sources have tipped Lippestad as a candidate for Oslo mayor in council elections next year. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported a “very central Ap source” said the party was seriously considering nominating Lippestad as its mayoral candidate. “Geir Lippestad is a man who enjoys enormous respect among most people,” explained the source. “He’s one of very few with the potential to be a real challenger against Fabian Stang.” The Conservative (Høyre) Party has led Oslo council since 1995, with Stang at the helm for the past seven years.

The leader of the Oslo Ap, Jan Bøhler, would neither confirm or deny Lippestad’s potential candidacy, saying the nomination process must run its course. “Geir Lippestad is an active member of the Labour Party in Oslo,” he told NRK. “He distinguishes himself in a way that’s positive, but I cannot comment on whether he could be a candidate or not.”

Bøhler did acknowledge it’s critical for the party to put up a star candidate with broad community appeal. “We must have a mayoral candidate who can match the popularity of Fabian Stang and his people. He or she must be popular in a different way, and not a copy of Fabian Stang.”

Purely hypothetical
NRK reported speculation of Lippestad’s candidacy has been discussed in Ap‘s Oslo headquarters and the corridors of parliament. Yet Lippestad himself said he has received no request, neither outright nor implied, to stand as mayor. “It’s purely a hypothetical question,” he replied, when asked if he’d be open to the proposition. He added it was “very nice to hear” some Labour insiders believed he was right for the role.

Lippestad rose to fame when he defended Anders Behring Breivik, the man convicted of murdering 77 people when he blew up a government building and went on a shooting rampage at a Labour Party youth camp on July 22, 2011. Breivik chose Lippestad as his lawyer, despite the fact he was a longstanding member of the very party Breivik attacked. Lippestad wrote a book on the experience, and has become prominent within the Ap, addressing the national conference last year.

He was named chairman of a new left-leaning think tank, Agenda, in December last year. NRK’s source said taking on the role signaled Lippestad’s political ambitions. “When I became chairman of Agenda in autumn, I was very clear that I have a big community engagement to carry out,” said Lippestad. “That community engagement will not lessen with age, rather the opposite, but I have not thought about or imagined any other political office beyond those I already have with Agenda and locally in the Oslo Labour Party.”

Unofficial process underway
While the formal nomination process starts in August and is settled by November, Bøhler said discussing politics and the people involved in it is part of the ongoing work of a political party. NRK reported local government is very personality-driven, and while candidates need a clear political message, they don’t have to be career politicians. The mayor plans and leads council meetings, and has a ceremonial role in representing the city.

“It’s important to find a candidate that strikes a chord with people at home, and is popular on his or her own basis,” explained Bøhler. “Although the mayor doesn’t have so much power, he or she plays a very important role for the city and the party. We must not underestimate the importance of this.”

Party secretary Raymond Johansen and former police director and state secretary Øystein Mæland were also named by NRK’s sources as potential candidates.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate