NEWS ANALYSIS: The climate is good these days, in every sense of the word, for two of Norway’s small parties that literally are blossoming. Both the Reds and the Greens are fueled by a new gush of anti-oil sentiment, and the feeling that the “established” parties in Parliament just aren’t responding.
Political developments in Norway, which is not a member of the EU, thus reflect what happened during the recent EU election, except the Norwegian equivalent of a far-right party isn’t gaining. In Norway it’s now the two parties on the far left of Norwegian politics that are making among the biggest strides and wooing away voters, even though the Greens (Miljøpartiet De Grønne, MDG) don’t want to be associated with any political bloc on the right or the left.
They were the last of Norway’s nine parties represented in Parliament to hold their annual national meeting this past weekend. Greens members predictably arrived by public transport, electric vehicles or bicycle, and the meeting kicked off Friday when a large group of school students who’d been out striking in the rain outside Parliament marched in to a triumphant welcome. Green delegates clapped and cheered, as adults who actually champion the same things the youth want.
The school strikers had just booed Prime Minister Erna Solberg of the Conservative Party, who has urged the young students to stop striking and stay in class. That’s offended them, and they responded by claiming Solberg still hasn’t understood their main message: “Why should we care about our future, when you don’t?” They contend her refusal, along with that of the Labour, Center, Christian Democrats and even the Liberal parties, to rein in the oil industry and stop issuing exploration licenses means their future is directly threatened by climate change.
Both the Greens and the Reds believe the same, and seem willing to meet students’ demands to stop issuing licenses for more offshore oil activity, cut Norway’s carbon emissions by more than half by 2030 and create more climate-friendly jobs. The question remains over how to do the latter, with no “new oil” product or service turning up yet to replace lost oil revenues, but there’s no question more voters young and old are turning towards the most climate-friendly parties.
Even Crown Prince Haakon has emerged as a climate activist of sorts himself, not least after he told German magazine Der Spiegel that he thinks the striking school students are right in claiming that the elder generation hasn’t done enough to protect the globe. It “would have been better for the world,” he said, if the climate movement had begun earlier.
As columnist Hege Ulstein in newspaper Dagsavisen pointed out over the weekend, the Greens now have youth, rising public sentiment and even some royal support. “That’s quite a strong team,” she wrote. Oslo’s constantly crowded trams and buses, all the vegetarian menus popping up in restaurants and crackdown on plastic also suggest that times are changing.
The Greens already hold around 10 percent of the vote in Oslo, according to recent public opinion polls. The Reds, which has won national attention through the sheer moxie and “Moxism” of their party leader and lone Member of Parliament Bjørnar Moxnes, are convinced they can command 10 percent as well, on a national basis.
The Greens say they’re open to cooperating with all the other parties to retain power in Oslo and Bergen and gain it in Trondheim and Tromsø. They’re concentrating on the cities, where most mainland emissions are generated, and where they now cooperate, for example, with Labour and the Socialist Left in Oslo. Jonas Gahr Støre, leader of the Labour Party, has commended cooperation with the Greens at the city level but won’t cooperate with them on a national level because of their opposition to oil.
The situation is similar for the Reds, which logged the single-biggest gains in public opinion polls last winter and shot up to nearly 8 percent of the vote in February. The Reds have recently been closer to 10 percent in Oslo. They’ve held more voter supporter than either of the two small parties in the government coalition (the Liberals and Christian Democrats, who’ve wallowed around 3-4 percent) and even gained more than the farmer-friendly Center Party, which has logged strong gains but also been criticized as being weak on climate issues and populist. Some of the Reds’ poll results would have given them 14 seats in Parliament, almost as much as Center.
Bjørnar Moxnes remains the Reds’ sole MP, with the Greens also holding only one seat. The clear, well-spoken Moxnes, however, has made the most of his position. It was Moxnes who ultimately forced the resignation of the Progress Party’s highly controversial Sylvi Listhaug as justice minister last year. He’s repeatedly preached the benefits of labour union membership even though the Reds get no financial support from labour organizations. He’s put forth proposals for official evaluations of the structure and power balance in the workforce, because of concerns over the use of temporary workers instead of full-time employees and the heavy use of consultants.
Stuck to ‘communist’ label
Moxnes, however, couldn’t get his party colleagues to vote at their recent annual national meeting to move away from describing themselves as “communist.” Both he and others in the party leadership think the Reds’ traditional definition of being a communist party is like a ball and chain on them, but a majority wanted to keep the term in what they view as its true form, without any authoritarian rule, violence or tyranny. Moxnes himself champions socialism but also wants to shed any image that he and his “Moxism” make the Reds a one-man show. He’s got support in the figures: Poll results have been stable at well over the 4 percent needed for full representation with mandates in Parliament, suggesting he’ll get plenty of Reds colleagues at the next national election. Their recent annual meeting was their largest ever, with more than 300 delegates, and membership numbers have more than doubled since the last national election in 2017.
The Reds and the Greens may likely agree and cooperate on various issues, but each still seems too independent to team up. Instead they’ll likely continue to chip away at the voter mass behind the bigger parties, much to their frustration. Speculation is rising that Labour’s Støre may invite the Reds to join a future left-center government, but Støre may be the one who’ll be disappointed.