Immigrants turn to Conservatives

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The number of Norwegian residents with non-western background who voted for Norway’s Conservative Party (Høyre) doubled between the elections of 2011 and 2013, according to new figures from state statistics bureau SSB. Høyre already has solid support within Norway’s Polish community as well, making it the emerging party of choice for immigrants.

The Conservative Party (Høyre)'s team of politicians is making strides in attracting the immigrant vote. PHOTO: Høyre

The Conservative Party (Høyre)’s team of politicians. led by Prime Minister Erna Solberg (center), is making strides in attracting the immigrant vote. PHOTO: Høyre

Newspaper Dagsavisen reported this week that SSB’s new voter survey entitled “Immigrants and the Parliamentary election of 2013” shows how Høyre has attracted a remarkable number of voters with immigrant background from Africa, Asia and Latin America. Many of these voters earlier had cast ballots in favour of either the Socialist Left party (SV) or the Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet, Ap).

“We’re on the way to seeing an historic shift in the political landscape,” Mudassar Kapur, a Member of Parliament for Høyre, told Dagsavisen. Immigrants with residence permission in Norway can vote in local elections, while only those with citizenship can vote in national elections, both of which are alternately held every four years. The next found of local elections all over the country will take place next year, in the fall of 2015, while the next national (parliamentary) election will be held in 2017.

Parties on the left side of Norwegian politics traditionally served as the voter magnets for minorities. From 1990 to 2007, fully 75 percent of non-western minorities voted for parties on the left, according to SSB. In the local government elections of 2011, however, there was a marked change in voting patterns. SV lost badly, not least, according to Kapur, because “the leftist parties’ integration policies suddenly seemed out of date,” he said. “They kept talking about ‘immigrant issues,’ while Høyre was more concerned about policies that affected folks’ everyday life, like schools, jobs, welfare and freedom.”

Kapur claimed many immigrants, for example, were glad to hear Høyre propose easing rules against more use of temporary employees. “Not everyone is so privileged that they can compete for hard-to-get permanent jobs,” Kabur told Dagsavisen. “For them, it’s much more important to get a foot in the door at a company (through a temporary job) than to get a permanent job there.”

Labour remains the party with the largest base of immigrant support, though. At last fall’s national elections, more than 60 percent still voted for left-leaning parties, most of all Labour, but support for Høyre grew. Høyre won much bigger shares of the vote in the Oslo neighbourhoods of Stovner and Søndre Nordstrand, typically left-leaning areas.

The support for Høyre and even for the more conservative Progress Party, long viewed as Norway’s party most skeptical towards immigration, may indicate a maturing process and the fact that new waves of second-generation immigrants have become more integrated in Norwegian society. Instead of seeking out parties that defend immigration, they’re more concerned with general political issues. Like many Norwegian-American immigrants in the US have done for years, for example, they’re voting conservative.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund