Understanding the 2017 National Norwegian Elections – for confused foreigners.

In case you have not noticed, Norway will be electing its Prime Minister next week on Monday the 11th of September. The last time this kind of election took place in Norway it was 4 years ago, and back then I was just understanding which colour was associated to which party.

Although I still don’t have the right to vote in this election (you need to be a Norwegian citizen for that), I am now able to understand a little bit more about the dynamics (but bear with me, not all of them). If you are still unsure about the names of parties, colours, and other mysteries of Norwegian Politics, read this blogpost first.

Here are a few clues to understand Norway’s national election 2107 edition:

Low unemployment: The current government, led by the Conservatives and the Progress Party, is surfing on a feel-good wave, as the National Statistics Bureau revealed just before the election race started that unemployment has never been so low in Norway. This is stealing a huge campaign theme for…the Labour Party of course! Supposed to be the best at…well at providing jobs for labourers. Solberg, the head of the Conservative Party, is smiling on every picture, while Jonas Gahr Støre (head of the Labour Party) does not look too good. It does not help that pseudo-scandals are popping up in the Norwegian media about him. Like the one where his janitor may have cheated on his wife and not paid the labourers working on Støre’s house. (Pardon my French, but who the F… cares?). Other pictures show him in a helicopter (bad image in Janteloven-Norway) while Solberg is taken in front of a school (good image in children-oriented Norway). Polls are showing his party going down, and as I am writing this blogpost VG is publishing a scandal on Støre. Not sure if it is true, but as I said, not looking too good.

Sylvi Listhaug on the top of her game: Sylvi Listhaug is not even the head of the Progress Party or FrP (now anti-immigration party which was built on wanting less taxes), but she is probably the Norwegian politician getting most publicity and attention in Norway. Whole books can be written about this woman who, among other things, has helt a famous anti-LGTBQI rights speech (2009) where she said that “It is not politicians who decide whether the Earth is flat. Marriage is only between men and women”. She also recently said that “Human rights of asylum seekers should be set aside in order to protect the Norwegian population“. Who needs human rights when you are fleeing a country at war, right? I also had this wild idea that human rights apply to humans. Maybe asylum seekers have lost that status in the eyes of Listhaug? Anyway, not my favourite politician in the world.  She even got the Christian Democrat leader Knut Hareide angry (this guy smiles a lot, seldom angry) because she used fake facts and manipulated information to pretend his party was endorsing something it did not actually endorse. She used to be a PR expert in First House, still doing a great job at that!

The Farmers’ Party on the rise: I call it the Farmers’ Party but it is actually called the Agrarian Center Party (Senterpartiet). This is the most confusing party for me, as its image to me is a mix of 1- wanting to kill all the wolves in Norway so that farmers can let their sheep grass in peace, 2- decentralise the power in Norway, give less power to Oslo and more to municipalities (kommuner) and 3- an agricultural policy, which I don’t quite understand. Basically saying “Yey farmers!”, Yey people from the country side, no to the elite in Oslo. My shaky analysis is that Listhaug and Vedum (leader of the Farmers’ party) together create something looking terribly like Trump. You have it all: the people first, the fake news, the blind hate of immigration, the distrust in elites. If you mix their haircuts you also get something closer to Trump’s haircut. Yeah yeah, it’s late, I am being silly.

The future of oil exploration is key: Norway is an oil nation, rich from oil and because they manage the resources well. Meaning it is one, if not the only country in the world, which got richer from natural resources and not poorer. Everybody got richer, not just 3% of the population, and corruption is still low. Still, it’s a fossil fuel and many Norwegians are getting climate-conscious and wondering how Norway is contributing making the world a better place by pumping that oil, and planning to explore new oil fields in the North of Norway. Several parties are calling for an end-date for all oil exploration and for a green shift in the economy. Read this article published in the New York Times for more information on this issue. People wanting to defend the environment cannot look at the Conservatives, who want to intensify oil drilling, nor at the Progress Party which has many climate-sceptic members (the current Minister of Justice from this party, Per-Willy Amundsen, declared once that “Karl Marx is dead, socialists needed a replacement. The climate attackers have found it in the carbon theory. I simply think that CO2 has replaced Karl Marx”. The Labour Party is a bit better, but the oil industry secures a lot of jobs so they are not to keen on thinking green yet. So greener voters look to the Green Party, on the rise, and to the Socialists (SV).

Other themes: The privatization of national enterprises (such as the railway. That went great in the UK, right?) is also a big theme in the campaign, alongside other stuff such as something Norwegians call kontantstøtte, which for some reasons is central. It is money parents get when they stay at home to take care of their kids. Did I mention, Norway is a very child-centered society. (For light reading about the topic, see here). Velferdprofitører is also a theme. It is about people getting rich by managing state services privately, like kindergarden. Formueskatt, tax on the fortune, which the current government likes a lot, is also a topic. Some issues are not discussed so much, like the government reducing the social benefits for the disabled, reducing paternity leave, and all the other great things that make Norway a social-democracy.

What is not a topic in this election: the EU. It does not seem like becoming a member of the EU is a sexy topic for Norwegian parties to take on. Making a communist revolution is something that seems more appealing that than for many. You get the picture.

The school election (Skolevalg) is decisive: Now this was new to me. In Norway highschool kids under 18 get to vote in a symbolic national election which is seen as taking the pulse of the “adult” election occurring a week later. This year, the results were given a few days ago, and the Labour Party wins by a good margin, against all polls. The Socialists being those most on the rise. So, will it make the deal for Jonas Gahr Støre?

Who will win this election? Nobody knows. There are other parties: the Christian Democrats (KrF), the Communists, the Liberals. The fight of all small parties (including the Green party and the Socialists) is to get above the limit of 4% of votes which gives them a share of the cake to sit in Parliament. What is interesting with Norwegian politics is that, just like work life, it is based on compromise. After the results parties need to work together in order to rule, and at this stage I don’t think anyone knows which parties are going to get their head out of the water and rule the country. Fingers crossed, us immigrants won’t get kicked out just yet out of this beautiful country! Results are Monday evening, probably around 11pm.

 

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