What happened in the Norwegian General Election?

In September the Norwegians went to the polls for their General Election. The result was that the current Prime Mninster, Erna Solberg, stays in position with her Conservative-Populist coalition. Their supporting parties, the Christians ans the Liberals, have been somewhat diminished so it may prove harder for her to get legislation through (more on this in future posts). To begin with though, let’s pick over the results.

Red 2.4% 1 seat: As I’ve mentioned before the commies often get good poll results, but then fail on the last hurdle when it comes down to election day. They’ll be pleased, therefore, to have managed to gain a seat this time round. Although only one seat in Parliament still means they have to wait a while before the system of parliamentary democracy falls – at least now they can try to bring it down from within.

Socialists 6.0% 11 seats: A very good result for the Socialists. They will be delighted to have improved on their downward trajectory of the last three elections. However, they are, and ought to be, fuming that Labour Party let them down so sorely. They did their part, but Labour failed to do theirs to get a change of government for the socialist side.

Labour 27.4% 49 seats: This is a very poor result for the Labour Party. Their worst showing as an opposition party since 1924. The message was off, their image was off, they wish their leader had been off. It all went badly in short. To be fair, the Norwegian economy is going better and, given that, it would be hard to turf out a government. But Labour did know the economy was going better and had plenty of time to move away from the ‘end is nigh’ narrative they ended up going with.

Farmers 10.3% 19 seats: In a manner that never ceases to amaze this party of wolly-pully wearers resonated with a large number of people. Presumably people who think Norway’s economy should still be based on sheepherding and wolf baiting, but voters nonetheless. The Farmers managed to rally those against the Conservatives’ attempts to take Norway’s local government system out of the 1800s in a most effective way and will be delighted with their result. However, as with the Socialists, that delight will be tempered with anger that they nearly doubled their size, but the Labour Party’s woes mean they can’t enter government.

Greens 3.2% 1 seat: The green tsunami was more of a green splash. Many opinion polls had the Greens over the magical 4% mark, but sadly they were unable to make it over and their solitary MP will wonder the palaces of the mighty searching for Parliament recycling bins in which to drop their manifesto.

Christians 4.2% 8 seats: Having been piously glancing left and right in search of allies the party leaders should have paid greater attention to their own voters. In short the party elite are full of well meaning Christians with earnest expressions, clasped hands and lofty ideas about values and the importance of human dignity. They were quite happy to tempt the cuddly left side of politics with their centrist kingmaking ability. But, their voting base is made up by rednecked biblebashers in the south and west. A far cry from the well-meaning Oslo and Bergen elites of the party’s leadership. As a result they fell between two stools as many of the rednecks who wanted to go back to 1800 opted for the Farmers and the more immigrant-hating rednecks went for the Populists.

Liberals 4.4% 8 seats: “The only thing that needs explaining in Norwegian politics is why everyone doesn’t vote for the Liberals” – this is an old adage of Norwegian politics and it’s completely true. The Liberals try to be all things to all people; they love the environment, they love small businesses, they love schools, and researchers? Give us plenty of them too. The problem is that no one really listens to them. Or usually that is the case at least. Although this result is low, it is the first time in decades that they have made it over the 4% threshold two elections in a row. So kudos for that, I guess, even it did come from lots of Conservative voters holding their nose.

Conservatives 25.0% 45 seats: Speaking of the Conservatives, they did really rather well. Their Prime Minister stays in and is looking more and more with-it by the day. She is calm, collected, knows her policies in and out. Rather refreshing in a world were policy wonks are having a hard time shining through (see Trump and Brexit whatever the consequences). On the down side, the Oslo boys sipping champagne on daddy’s yacht will have to keep their braincell whirring to figure out how to deal with this new electoral situation, but that’s alright, they have the intoxicating access to power and pappy’s Chablis to get them through.

Populists 15.2% 27 seats: After a bit of a slump mid-election cycle the Populists have bounced back and have made a roaring trade on xenophobia and fear of immigrants and refugees. The election campaign started off with a debate about Norwegian values and how much brown cheese was needed on a waffle to make it fully Norwegian. The Populists made hay on that debate among people who feel unable to enjoy their waffles knowing that there are foreigners around who might take their waffles from them and try to put foreign muck like salami on them. But yes, I suppose that’s around 15% of voters, which is fine in the grand scheme of things.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Populists (Fremskrittspartiet)

The Populist had a very nasty shock when they entered government three years ago. Before coming into power, they had been promising more welfare, less taxes, more workers in healthcare, and unlimited use of Norway’s oil reserves. And, alarmingly enough, their leader became Minister of Finance.

Luckily some dull, stolid chaps at the Treasury sat her down and carefully explained that her policies were unworkable. Now their leader seems to be leading an exhausting double-life of keeping the maniacs in her party’s grassroots under control and appearing to be a responsible member of government.

Unfortunately, the recent refugee crisis has led to a knee jerk reaction meaning the Populists have been able to force through some bans on being humanitarian and showing compassion. The Conservatives and Labour Party, in fear of being accused of having a backbone, are on board with this agenda, leaving the smaller parties powerless to do more than ‘tut tut’ in the background.

The Conservatives (Høyre)

The Conservative Party’s base is poshies living around Oslo who don’t want too much change from one election to next, but maybe want to pay a little less tax on daddy’s yacht and the family’s second second home.

They’re not very conservative from a UK perspective (or any perspective really) and manage to temper monetary self-interest with a sensible social justice focus. In fact, the Conservatives and the Labour Party have become increasingly similar, and like many other countries the two largest parties only really exist in opposition to each other. The policy differences aren’t that big, but they have to pretend they are in order to create a little excitement around election time.

Their leader, the current Prime Minister of Norway, is agonisingly competent; it’s hard to imagine her lying awake at night worrying about the next big debate. She knows exactly what to say and how to spin it for the government. Listening to her paper over the cracks between sensible conservatives and nutty populists in her administration is impressive.

The Liberals (Venstre)

Being green was supposed to be the Liberals big thing. Now, however, there’s an actual party called the Greens, who haven’t jumped into coalition with the least environmentally friendly party on the market.

Supporting the Conservative-Populist government, the Liberals are having a hard time selling themselves as progressive and of any use in Norwegian politics. They have taken a tumble in the polls and are dangerously close to the 4% threshold one year out from the election.  A leaked memo from their party headquarters read: “Existentialist crisis: Rethink meaning of it all!”

The Christians (Kristelig Folkeparti)

The Christians have prided themselves on being twenty years behind the prevailing debate in Norway. Be it abortion or gay marriage, on all sensible, progressive ideas the Christians have dragged their feet and tried to prevent Norway moving out of the 19th century. Fortunately they have been unsuccessful, and have, with some aptness, been dubbed “the party of lost causes.”

Being fair to the Christians they are caught in an awkward position between being resolutely reactionary to please their solid, ageing and shrinking base, and moving with the times on social issues. There are encouraging signs that the party elite is of a modern progressive bent. For example, their leader attended Gay Pride Oslo shortly after the Orlando shootings, and has expressed sympathy with Syrian refugees.

Reactionary and deeply moralising, but with a fundamentally humanitarian bent that any sloth can appreciate, the Christians are an odd mix.

The Greens (Miljøpartiet De Grønne)

This party has emerged out of nowhere in the last few years. Doing well in the government elections three years ago, and getting into local government in Oslo last year, it seems these bean-eating greeenies are here to stay.

It proved relatively easy to attract a base of support from young idealistic voters, and the Greens lack of firm policies means that the young’uns can read what they like into their fist-waving slogan “Be green!”

It also means they can look left and right for political support. Though having only one MP the other parties aren’t yet that interested, meaning they have plenty of time to enjoy wandering around the palaces of the mighty, wearing sandals and pistachio-coloured shirts, nibbling celery and trying to locate increasingly elusive policies.

Farmers (Senterpartiet)

Unlike many other countries Norway still has a mainly agrarian party, orginially quite literally named ‘The Farmer’s Party’ it is now misleadingly called the Centre Party.

It is a peculiar name because this party holds some quite left-wing views such as being against free-trade and using the state to make sure people are forced to live in places with three men and a dog. But, then it also has some quite right-wing tendencies of being almost pathetically nationalistic and reactionary against any change in the political order. They are also competing with the far-right populist to be tougher on immigration.

So, I suppose they are the centre in the sense that left and right could average out to become the centre, but it is still quite a misleading name (misleading names is something of a thing for Norwegian political parties)

For the sake of ease, I will refer to them as the Farmers’ Party, mainly because that pretty much sums them up. Like many of the other smaller Norwegian parties, they are essentially a pressure group. In this case they lobby for the boonies in Norway. Their pet project is the cheese toll trade barrier. It is designed to ensure that Norwegians never get to taste Cheddar, Bree or any other of the other processed dairy products that make life worth living.