I thought I didn’t have to make too much effort to learn about Norwegian politics. Yes, I live in Norway, but it’s not like I am allowed to vote or anything. It was quite comfortable as it was: I was used to the brown haired-guy driving a taxi to get votes, and more importantly giving hope and inspiration to all of us after the terrible Breivik-attacks. I even learned his name: Jens Stoltenberg. But recently the elections and the change of government came along, and I got lost. All these new faces came up: three ladies, all blond with short hair, and another guy smiling all the time and and following them around (the Christian guy). Who are these people? What is their program? Why did they win? And then I started hearing that maybe there are too many immigrants in Norway, and that they will start drilling oil in the Lofoten Islands where I spent my summer 2 years ago. WHAAAT? At that point I had no other choice than try to make sense out of this political agitation.
So if you are like me, being a bit slow at this, I hope this blog post will help you. Because let’s face it, Norwegian politics are very confusing, especially for those who are not from here.
The first rule about Norwegian politics is to get your colours right. I started reading political articles just before the elections, and they were all about red and green and then maybe it will become blue-blue. What on Earth does this mean?
So the Norwegians have a colour spectrum going like this: green – red – blue. The more “green” a party is the more at the left of the political spectrum they are (in theory). The more “blue”, the more on the right end of the political spectrum. Some parties are only of one colour, and that makes it easy to guess where they stand in the political spectrum: Høyre (the Conservative Party) is only blue and Arbeiderspartiet (the Labour Party) is only red. Strangely enough three parties have only green as their colour: the Green party (we could have guessed that one) as well as the Centre Party and the Liberal Party. Then to make it more confusing, some other parties have a bit of every colour, don’t even ask why. The Christian Democratic Party (KrF) for example is red and orange (??) and the Socialist-Left party is green and red (SV).
Then Norwegians associate two colours to illustrate political alliances. For example Rød-Grønn (Red-Green government) is obviously the alliance between a “green” party and a “red” one. So then non-Norwegians have to take a wild guess, because having no political landmarks in this system makes it difficult to guess which parties we are talking about here as the same colour applies to different parties. My first guess on the Red-Green was an alliance between the Green Party and the Communists. WROOONG. Ok, the Labour party and the Liberal Party then? Wrong again. It was the alliance between the Labour Party and the Socialist-Left Party (red + red/green). Man that was SO easy to guess, why would anyone ever need to explain this to foreigners.
“So you see, said my colleague, the risk now for the next elections is that the government becomes Blue-Blue”. How can an alliance have the same colour twice? Well, blue being the colour of the right side of the political spectrum, some parties are light-blue (Høyre – Conservative Party) and others are dark-blue (FrP – the Progress Party).
Second basic principle if you want to understand the basics of Norwegian politics: never assume the ideology of a Norwegian political party based on its name. When looking at a list of the Norwegian political parties one could assume for example (like me) that Høyre, meaning “right” is the main Conservative Party, and “Venstre” meaning “left” is the main Socialist or left party. Of course, it cannot be that simple: Norwegians have their own interpretation of “left”. Because believe it or not, Venstre, is not a left party at all. In English they translate their name as Liberal Party, and it is some kind of centre party who was in the “right” block during the recent elections. yet, their colour is green! The main left party is not either the Socialist-left party, it is the Labour Party (remember Jens?). Thank God, Høyre is what you expect it to be, that one was almost too easy.
Then comes the Progress party (FrP). When I think “progress” I think “peace, love, understanding, solidarity and green energy”, not “there are too many foreigners in this country” and “let’s not do anything about climate change because it has nothing to do with human activity” and again “let’s pay less tax and have cheaper alcohol”. To make it clearer I suggest they rename it Patriotic Party or the Norwegian Peoples’ Party for the reference to the Danish party of the same type. Something to remind us that it is a far-right wing party. But then again, maybe Norwegian politicians have their own interpretation of progress, as they have their own interpretation of colours.
Those were the main Norwegian parties, but there are other smaller ones which have interesting names that do not illustrate their programme at all: the Society Party are anarchists, the Democrats are populists, the Coastal Party is a conservative party and there was even a Beer Unity Party but it died unfortunately.
There are many other confusing things that need to be explained, but I don’t want to give you a headache, and to be honest I don’t know much more than what I have just told you. To conclude, still, I would say that you should never expect any party, whichever colour they are, to have a political programme wanting to abolish the Welfare system. This is not the U.S.A, and however conservative a party might be, NAV and pappapermisjon are sacred in Norway.
Do you understand more about Norwegian politics after reading this blog post? I hope so, but if you don’t, relax, you have plenty of time to learn. If you just arrived in Norway, you will be allowed to vote in communal elections after being here for 3 years. But now that the Progress Party is in power they want to take it up to 10 years (see, they just gave you 7 more years to figure out all these colour-codes!). Plus, by the time you are allowed to vote, if ever, you might have your visa renewal rejected because of some new rule they passed! So, keep calm, and vote for me!