Norway’s four non-socialist parties, which have kept Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s conservative government in power the past four years, could head into this weekend’s campaigning with a new and wider majority. Not only did the Labour Party lose more support, so did its biggest potential government partner, the Center Party.
The new dynamics in what’s turning out to be an election thriller showed up in yet another poll, a so-called “party barometer” conducted by research firm Respons analyse for newspapers Aftenposten and Bergens Tidende. The Progress Party, Norway’s most conservative in Parliament, jumped 1.1 points to capture 16.6 percent of the vote, even more than the 16.3 percent that ushered Progress into government for the first time in 2013.
“This is enormously motivating, a great inspiration for us all to continue the good election campaign that Fremskrittspartiet (the Progress Party) has run,” Progress leader and Finance Minister Siv Jensen told Aftenposten.
It marks her party’s best result in a Respons analyse poll in more than a year, and it came while controversial Progress politician and Immigration Minister Sylvi Listhaug was provoking many in both Norway and Sweden with her tough positions on immigration and integration. Listhaug has irritated many within the Conservative Party and all but alienated her own government’s support parties, the Christian Democrats and Liberals, but nonetheless seems to have managed to attract new voters for her own party.
Asked about the so-called “Listhaug effect,” Jensen downplayed it, telling Aftenposten that she thinks “this is because we’re carrying out a good election campaign in many areas, not least in local and regional media where (Listhaug’s provocations) aren’t a big issue but where folks are concerned about property tax, business development, agricultural policies and fortune tax. Here we have had very good teamwork that’s led to good numbers in the polls.”
While Solberg’s Conservatives slipped 1.2 points, to land at 23.9 percent of the vote, both other support parties rose. The Christian Democrats rose to claim 5.4 percent of the vote and the Liberals jumped 1.2 points to 4.9 percent, relieving worries they’d fall under the limit needed for full representation in Parliament. All told the non-socialist parties grabbed 50.8 percent and 88 seats in Parliament, comfortably over the 85 needed.
They came at the expense of Labour and the Center Party, which fell to 26.1 percent and 8.8 percent respectively. Center lost the most votes, down 2 full points, while their potential government partner SV (the Socialist Left) rose again, by 1.7 points to claim 6.2 percent.
That gives the left side of Norwegian politics just 41.1 percent of the vote collectively, since they’ve ruled out the Greens (which rose to 4.7 percent in the new poll) and the Reds (2.4 percent) as government partners. Labour has vowed to mobilize its troops and embattled party leader Jonas Gahr Støre claimed earlier this week that he hasn’t lost faith. He also said he may even form a minority government made up of Labour alone, if his party winds up larger than the Conservatives after the election. That’s how Labour had ruled for decades until it formed and then led a left-center coalition that held power form 2005 to 2013. With just over a week to go before the September 11 election, Støre claimed that nearly a million Norwegian voters were still undecided. He and his rivals will all be campaigning hard to win their votes.