Norway’s Socialist Left party (SV) could celebrate Tuesday night after it won the biggest increase in voters in the country’s traditional elections held in Norwegian high schools nationwide. Labour emerged once again as Norway’s largest party, and could probably form a left-center government if the school election results carry over to the parliamentary election on Monday.
Called Skolevalget, the realistic but mock elections held in high schools were initially launched as a means of awakening political interest and engagement among Norwegian youth, and helping them learn about the country’s democratic system. They were nationally coordinated in 1989 and have since developed into an indication of actual voting, often hinting at how the general election will unfold. While school election results still tend to lean towards the left side of Norwegian politics, researchers note that local youth are not nearly as radical as they once were and tend to vote more like their parents do.
That’s why the school election results are closely watched, and topped state broadcaster NRK’s nightly national newscast Dagsrevyen. It could report the results as they ticked in, and they sent off cheers at a Labour Party gathering in Oslo attended by Labour’s embattled candidate for prime minister, Jonas Gahr Støre. Both he and the party have been sagging in a series of recent public opinion polls, so commentators were claiming that the school election results provided them with a burst of energy and optimism.
SV performed the best, winning an astonishing 10 percent of the vote among the high school students that was up 2.5 points from the local government elections held two years ago. Labour’s 27.8 percent of the vote was down 4 points, mirroring a similar decline in the polls, but it could command 44.6 percent of the vote if it forms a coalition government with SV and the Center Party. Center claimed 6.8 percent of the vote, much less than its showing in recent polls but up a full point from the 2015 voting.
The left-center parties could thus form a majority in Parliament if they also win support from either the Greens (6.8 percent) or the Reds (5.7 percent) or both. That’s by no means certain, but it looked more promising than the situation for incumbent Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s Conservatives. They won 15.1 percent of the students’ votes while Solberg’s current government partner, the Progress Party, won 10.4 percent, both slightly down from the 2015 election. Even with their current support parties, the Christian Democrats and Liberals, they’d only have 36 percent of the vote.
“We’re bigger than the Conservatives and Progress together, that’s fantastic,” exclaimed Mani Hussaini, head of Labour’s youth group AUF. He was comparing Labour’s 27.8 percent to the Conservatives’ and Progress’ combined 25.5 percent. The Conservatives’ youth group was undaunted, happy that they held up as well as they did in the student voting.
The real test will come on Election Day, September 11. Both Hussaini and Støre of Labour claimed they’re sure Labour will defy the polls and perform even better in the parliamentary election. Election researcher Bernt Aardal told NRK he thought the left-center parties did “surprisingly well,” noting that Labour gained 4.6 points from the school election held before the last parliamentary election in 2013, which it lost to the Conservatives’ coalition.
For more information on the school elections and how they’re carried out, click here (external link).