Norway’s Labour Party has logged a major leap in voter support, scoring its best public opinion poll for nearly 30 years. Commentators attribute the huge jump in support to “The Jonas Effect,” after Jonas Gahr Støre took over as head of the party and its new prime minister candidate.
Støre, Labour’s former highly respected foreign minister who succeeded Jens Stoltenberg in June, was careful not to claim credit for the poll results, which showed Labour as suddenly holding 37.6 percent of the vote, its highest poll score since 1985. Støre diplomatically attributed the strong showing not to himself but to “the party organization that’s doing good work all over the country.”
Politicians tend to downplay poll results and Støre is no exception, but he admitted he was pleased. “It’s very nice that this happened while I’m on duty,” he told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Tuesday night. “A poll like this does something to one’s humour.”
Government parties slip
The so-called “party barometer” conducted by research firm Norstat questioned voters during the past week ending September 7. Labour’s score shot up 6.8 points over its election result just last year and it towered over the Conservative Party, which now heads the government and claimed 25.8 percent of the vote in the poll. The Conservatives’ government partner, the Progress Party, fell 2.1 points to claim just 13.3 percent of the vote, meaning their combined score is just barely ahead of Labour alone.
Both of the conservative government’s small “support” parties in Parliament registered modest gains, with the Liberals now claiming 4.7 percent of the vote and the Christian Democrats 5.9 percent. All four of them, though, now barely eke out a majority in Parliament, and their partnership remains tenuous. That means that if Labour manages to woo either or both of the support parties away, the government could fall.
Rebuilding Labour’s leadership
Støre, meanwhile, is now in the process of rebuilding Labour’s leadership after Party Secretary Raymond Johansen decided to return actively to city politics for Labour in Oslo and deputy party leader Helga Pedersen declined to serve another term.
Speculation is running high that Støre may tap Hadia Tajik, the former Minister of Culture who’s now a Member of Parliament, as new deputy leader. Trond Giske, the former minister for business and trade in the last Labour-led government, is tipped to succeed Johansen but remains bound by his election to parliament as well. The powerful party secretary position is usually considered a full-time job on its own and it would raise many challenges if Giske tries to combine it with his MP post.