Latest polls show Greens in the lead

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Several public opinion polls released less than a week before Monday’s local elections in Norway show record-high voter support for the Greens Party (MDG/Miljøpartiet de Grønne), no longer just in Oslo but all over the country. Its support, along with that for a resurgent Center Party, comes at the expense of both Labour and the Conservatives, indicating they may lose their traditional steering when new city- and county councils are formed based on election results.

Few Norwegian politicians are smiling more broadly these days than Lan Marie Nguyen Berg, whose Greens Party is claiming record high levels of voter support around the country. In Oslo, where Berg already has pushed through measures to make driving difficult, her party is now bigger than Labour according to recent public opinion polls. PHOTO: MDG/Monica Løvland

One of the new polls, conducted for newspaper Aftenposten and Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), indicates that the Labour Party may suffer its worst local election results ever. It’s being harshly punished in many towns and cities for its penchant for property tax that has left many homeowners around the country with new and rising property tax bills costing thousands of kroner. The Conservatives, meanwhile, vow to lower or eliminate property tax, at least on residential property.

Labour also hasn’t been forgiven for supporting the Conservatives-led government’s push towards municipal consolidation and, most controversially, the forced merger of Troms and Finnmark counties in Northern Norway. Voters in the Northern Norwegian community of Andøya also remain furious that Labour supported the conservative government’s decision to move and ultimately shut down its military air base, which has been the area’s biggest employer for years. Local residents argue that its northern coastal location is also important for national security as well as economically.

Voters in Norway’s northern communities thus seem poised to cast lots of ballots for the protectionist Center Party, which normally appeals primarily to farmers and outlying rural areas that clamour for state financial assistance. The Center Party, which retorts that it simply wants public services near the people, voted against moving Andøya’s air base and has bashed the Finnmark-Troms merger. That helped boost its Aftenposten/NRK poll showings three points to 15.2 percent of local voter support on a nationwide basis. Andøya voters have been giving Center as much as 70 percent of their support, and even more.

Center Party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum is also riding a new wave of support from voters who feel let down by Norway’s bigger parties. PHOTO: Senterpartiet

This has led to disastrous polls for Labour, which fell five points in the new Aftenposten/-
NRK poll to claim just 22.3 percent of the vote, while the Conservatives fell 4.6 points to 18.4 percent when voters were asked earlier this week: “If a local election was held tomorrow, for which party would you vote?”

Then came results of the so-called “Poll of polls” and average voter response to the same question throughout August. They also confirmed Labour with historially low support nationwide (23.9 percent) and the Conservatives with just 22.4 percent. The once-strong Progress Party was down at 10.1 percent, confirming it as now being smaller than the Center Party.

The Greens, meanwhile, have also been gaining support away from the big parties, with their leaders jubilant over nationwide standings of 10 percent while Progress fell to 7.3 percent in the recent Aftenposten/NRK poll. “This is just fantastic,” marveled the Greens’ national spokesperson Une Bastholm. “I get chills,” she added, as she carries on the campaign to reverse global warming.

The Greens Party (MDG) shuns the title of “party leader” and has opted instead for two “national spokespersons,” Une Bastholm and Arild Hermstad. They’re claiming more voters than ever before, despite some accusations that they resort to radical and socialist methods in pushing through climate-friendly policy. PHOTO: MDG

Though branded as “socialist” by some, The Greens are doing even better in selected cities, not least in Oslo, where they wound up bigger than Labour in another new poll this week, conducted for website Nettavisen and media group Amedia. Just five days before the election on Monday, the Greens claimed 20.3 percent of the vote in Oslo, 12.2 points higher than when they first won  city government power four years ago. Labour dove to 17.9 percent in Oslo, just over half its support at the last election.

The Greens thus stand to demand even more power in Oslo to maintain or further raise road tolls (bompenger), remove more street parking, create more bike lanes and in general make it increasingly difficult to drive in the Norwegian capital. Lan Marie Nguyen Berg, the controversial Greens leader in Oslo who has moved fast to do all of the above since winning election in 2015, already wants to seize more key city posts away from Labour (including finance and trade) and may wind up with the voter base to do so. Labour and the Greens rely on the Socialist Left for a majority in Oslo, and also often need support from the Reds Party as well.

A record number of Norwegian voters (around 500,000) have already cast their ballots in absentee- and early voting so far, and the state has especially encouraged immigrants lacking Norwegian citizenship to take part in the local elections. Only Norwegian citizens can vote in national (parliamentary) elections, so the municipal and county elections that roll around every four years are legal foreign residents’ only official chance to influence public policy in Norway.

While early voting in the upcoming local election ends on Friday, polls in some communities will be open on Sunday afternoon and all day, until 9pm, on the actual Election Day, Monday September 9. Results are expected shortly thereafter.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund