Norsk politics shift leftward

2015 local elections favor Labor and punish the Conservative Party

Political parties shift left

M. Michael Brady
Asker, Norway

The results of the Norwegian local elections held Monday, September 14, show a strong leftward shift in politics, from the borgerlig (“non-socialist”)* right to the socialistic left, now with a small but significant centrist wedge of the newer environmentalists, Miljøpartiet de grønne (MDG, “Green Environmental Party”) in between.

In Norway, local elections for the 428 city/municipal councils and for the 19 county parliaments are held every four years, sandwiched between national elections for the Storting. In this year’s local elections, nearly 2.4 million of more than four million citizens and permanent resident foreigners entitled to vote did so, the lowest turnout since 2003.

Aftenposten, the country’s largest newspaper, has made all the results available in a valgomat (“election automat”) in an interactive map online at: mm.aftenposten.no/2015/kommunevalg/#valgomat.

In all, there were no party upheavals and not one defenestration of a politician. Arbeiderparti (“Labor Party”), the largest of the leftist parties, retained its lead as the country’s most popular party. Høyre (“Conservative Party”), the largest of the rightist parties, lost more percentage points than any other party.

As after elections elsewhere, the post-election media coverage focused on pronouncements by pundits. Perhaps most significant, on the Friday following the election (September 18) Morgenbladet, the cultural weekly newspaper (print and online) interpreted the cultural significance of the election by comparing the disparate results in four cities (www.morgenbladet.no/2015/09/lokal-historie-om-lokale-valg).

In the far north, the Miljøpatiet De Grønn (“Green Environmental Party”) gained the support of 12.4% of the voters, the most significant of the centrist parties anywhere in the country. In the capital city of Oslo, media coverage focused on national issues, such as the crisis in Syria, which apparently had little or no effect on voter support. In Kristiansund on the west coast, Senterparti (“Center Party”) gained support of 24.1% of the voters, which implied that the influential national media had ignored local issues, such as the location of a new central hospital in Molde, not Kristiansund. Likewise, in Hamar, north of Oslo, a small local party, By- og bygdelista (“City and Village List”), gained the support of more than half the voters. The overall message was that local issues remain most important to local voters.

The results of the 2015 local elections augur a leftward shift in the 2017 national election and consequently a leftward shift of government, most likely to a coalition centered on the Arbeiderparti (“Labor”). That said, much remains to be sorted out as the various parties prepare for the 2017 national election of parliamentarians to the Storting.

* In print as well as in Norwegian-English dictionaries, the translation of borgerlig is “non-socialist,” a term widely used in English texts on European politics. Historically, there is a simpler, more specific term, “bourgeois.” But after the Russian Revolution, “bourgeois” was despairingly used in communist writings to connote “exploitation of the proletariat.” So writers wishing not to be associated with communists coined a synonym, “non-socialist.” Though politically correct, that term is a clumsy construct. As memories of the Soviet era fade, might “bourgeois” be reinstated sometime in the future?

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 25, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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