A small-town politician for the rural-oriented Center Party was told this week that he’d be expelled if he didn’t resign voluntarily, after a social media group he runs became an arena for ultra-right-wing extremists who published hateful comments about Islam and muslims.
Jan-Ove Fromreide told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Monday afternoon that he would leave the party, and had asked that his name be dropped from a list of candidates for election in Askøy, Hordaland County.
‘Fatherland most important’
“I have been in contact with the local leader for the Center Party in Askøy and asked her to remove me from the (candidates’) list, since I can see that it could harm the party,” Fromreide wrote to NRK.
He has no intention of disbanding the group he formed on the social media site Facebook, though, which he has called Fedrelandet Viktigst (roughly translated: “The fatherland is most important”).
“At the same time time, I see it as more important to run a group like Fredrelandet Viktigst,” he wrote.
Newspaper Bergensavisen had earlier reported on the group and its Facebook page with around 2,800 members. Some of them have recently not only spread hateful and extremist comments but also have hailed the bombing and massacre carried out by white Norwegian extremist Anders Behring Breivik on July 22, 2011. Breivik attacked the Labour Party-led government (of which the Center Party was a part at the time) and its youth group, on the grounds Labour had allowed far too much immigration of muslims over the years.
For ‘everyone who loves Norway’
The closed Facebook group is billed, though, as being open “to everyone who loves Norway.” Fromreide himself has posted photos of the group Knights Templar International, which Breivik claimed to be a member of, and Bergensavisen reported that Fromreide has urged others to form a civil defense force of sorts.
The Center Party itself has a dubious history from its period as a party catering mostly to Norway’s most anti-socialist farmers. In the 1930s, had party had radical right-wing leanings and even some Nazi sympathies before World War II, with one of its top politicians joining the Norwegian Nazi party NS and holding positions in Vidkun Quisling’s regime during the German occupation. That caused problems for the party when the war ended and it later reformed and renamed itself, with current leaders stressing that Fromreide’s opinions are not at all in line with party policy.
“It is completely indefensible to publish the things he has,” Jostein Ljones, leader of the Center Party in Hordaland County, told NRK. “This can’t be reconciled with having any role in the Center Party.”
‘Resign or be expelled’
Anne Karin Gullbrå Hilleren of the party chapter in Askøy said Fromeide would be expelled from the party if he failed to resign voluntarily. Fromreide opted for the latter, stressing that it was more important to continue his work with the Facebook group than be a member of the party.
He claimed, though, that he was actively trying to “throw out” the group’s most extreme members, and remove racist and hateful comments published on the site. Fromreide also said he strongly opposed those who commended Breivik’s attacks four ago.
“Fedrelandet Viktigst is a group for everyone who loves Norway and who values what our forefathers fought for, and it has nothing to do with the Center Party,” he told NRK. “Extreme comments are deleted as soon as they’re spotted.”