Setting the tone for the election

Norwegian politicians ready to debate on Aug. 15.

Norwegian politicians ready to debate on Aug. 15.

How will political solidarity after July 22 affect upcoming municipal elections?

After the bombing of government headquarters and massacre on an island outside of Oslo on July 22 that claimed 77 lives, most Norwegian politicians entered into an agreement which came to be called avtalen om husfred, or, literally, “the agreement for house-peace.” This agreement stipulated that politicians would avoid discussing hot-button political issues and wouldn’t criticize each other until after August 13, which is one months before the election. The purpose of the agreement was simply to forge a feeling of unity among Norwegian citizens, regardless of political sympathies, and to allow Norwegians to grieve without a background of political chatter. As a result of the agreement, Norwegian political leaders came together in an inspiring show of solidarity, with even Siv Jensen, leader of Norway’s Progress Party, unexpectedly praising Prime Minister Stoltenberg. Although she admitted to disagreeing with most of his policies, she stated that “he was my prime minister (during the crisis) too, and he deserves praise.”

Now, however, with the municipal elections only four weeks away, the agreement is being heavily criticized. “The Norwegian politicians do not dare to respond to important social issues. For fear of being too argumentative, and for fear of disturbing the grief, we have gone too far in the wrong direction,” said political editor Kyrre Nakkim in an interview with NRK. “It is undemocratic, it is wrong, and it is a completely different direction then what the Prime Minister promised when he said that we should have more democracy and more openness.”

The upcoming election will determine the make-up of local city and county councils for the next four years. Election Day is Sept. 12, but many local communities will also allow voiting on Sept. 11 as well as the absentee voting that’s already underway.

“It is very important that we manage to take the same matters up for debate, as if nothing had happened. If we push things under the carpet, then the terrorist has won. So we should focus on taking the same debates that we would have done before July 22,” says Progress Party politician Lavrans Kierulf to NRK.no. His girlfriend, Nicoline Bjerge Schie, who is a member of Arbeidernes Ungdomsfylking (Labor Party Youth), lived through the Utøya massacre. He admits that it has been difficult to focus on campaigning, but, “We have a hope that the elections this year will have an all-time high turnout, and a prerequisite for this is that we have a real election campaign where we can show the difference between the parties.”

Unfortunately, many don’t believe that this sort of campaign is possible right now. Too many politicians are walking on egg shells, afraid to say something wrong—even in answer to simple questions. When NRK asked Parliament Representative Mette Hanekamhaug (Progress Party), for example, about how it was to see Jensen applaud Stoltenberg, she answered, “I’m not sure if I can answer that because of husfreden.” Later, however, she admitted to endorsing the action.

Source: Kelsey Larson, Norwegian American Weekly

This article was originally published in the Aug. 19, 2011 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. For more information about the Norwegian American Weekly or to subscribe, call us toll free (800) 305-0217 or email subscribe@norway.com.

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