Norway: Racist ‘Progress Party’ biggest loser in elections

Labour Party gains less then predicted

The Labour Party (AP) and the conservative Høyre both went ahead in the municipal and county council elections in Norway held on 12 September. But it was a catastrope for both AP’s partner in government, the Socialist Left Party, and the right-wing populist and racist Progress Party.

So-called "experts" in the media predicted that the turnout would go up sharply after the right-wing terrorist’s ghastly bombing and massacre at the AP Youth League camp on 22 July. However, when it came to the election, the turn-out was much the same as last time – about 60 percent. Opposition to terrorism did not lead to increased support for any of the parties or the establishment.

Support for the Labour Party had gone up sharply immediately after the terrorist attack and in some polls reached as much as 40 percent. Labour increased its vote most among the young. They had good results in school elections and many from their Youth League were elected to the city councils. But because of the bad result for Labour’s coalition ally – the Socialist Left Party (SV), Labour was not able to gain control in the largest cities.

In Trondheim, which has seen more pronounced left policies with the defence of the public sector, the Labour Party managed to keep power. They followed the so-called ‘Trondheim model’ – a collaboration between LO-trade unions, Labour, SV, and Rødt (Red). In Oslo, where the election was close, the Labour Party could not overthrow the Conservatives, despite their success. Labour got 31.7% in Oslo.

Fremskrittspartiet (the Progress Party) was the biggest loser. It became known that the terroist Breivik had been a member of this party for 10 years. After the attack, they could not use Islamophobia to get votes as they had done in the past. It would sound as if they were quoting Breivik’s so-called manifesto. The Progress Party’s former chairman, Carl I Hagen, said immediately after the terrorist attacks that he wanted the investigation to be short and that most terrorists are Muslims! This shocked many. His party got 11.4 per cent, down 6.1 per cent from the last local elections, but down 11 per cent since the last parliamentary elections.

Had it been a general election now, the traditional bourgeois parties would have taken over the government. Høyre had been increasing most, by 8.8 percentage points to 28 per cent. Immediately after the terror attacks its increase slowed, and their support actually fell slightly, while the Progress Party sank like a stone. Nevertheless, Høyre did, in the end, win overall in these elections.

The AP government must take much of the responsibility for this, because it has continued much of the conservative capitalist policies since it took over government, and it does not stand for a real alternative programme on which it can mobilise against the right wing. It is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between Labour and Høyre. But criticism of the government particularly hit the Socialist Left Party, SV.

SV’s leader Kristen Halvorsen resigned after the poor election results. She had been the architect behind the red-green government cooperation. But the government has continued the bourgeois policies, only at a slightly slower pace.

The AP government has been responsible for the continued privatisations and deregulation and the undermining of council finances that have hit the public sector hard. They have not tried to introduce any socialist policies or important reforms.

There are soaring differences between the poorest and the richest, and the proportion of poor children in Norway has been growing. But particularly the support for Norway’s participation in the wars in Afghanistan and Libya has torn at the support for the SV. The party was founded out of resistance to NATO. Many SV members reacted against the decision to support the bombing of Libya taken by the leadership in an undemocratic way without discussion. SV will probably now try to choose a leader with a more left-wing profile. There is no clear left opposition within the party or a willingness to leave the government. But after participating in the government, SV is now only marginally over the threshold for parliament of 4 percent – down 1.8%.

But the party Rødt (Red), which has its roots in Maoism in the ‘70s, and now includes several groups such as the IS (Norwegian SWP), has failed to capture the voters who deserted the SV. They received just 1.5 per cent which gave them 60 councillors around the municipalities. It is difficult to notice them anywhere outside parliamentary or electoral politics. But the success of left alliances – in Denmark, Ireland and elsewhere – shows that there is considerable potential for anti-capitalist parties. A new workers’ party with socialist policies could be mobilised against the right and the capitalist cuts policies for the rich.

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September 2011