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The Norwegian General Election

Election campaigning

One expat's first experience of politics in Norway, including the 2013 Norwegian General Election results.

Those who know me from back in the UK will know of my interest in politics. I've been a member of the Liberal Democrats for over ten years, worked for the party for a year, trained countless volunteers all across the UK and even stood for Council several times.

Since moving to Norway I've kept my opinions on politics here to myself, for two reasons. Firstly and most importantly, I'm not Norwegian. I didn't grow up here, didn't experience the education system, and cannot vote in elections. But also, I've been watching and learning. For someone interested in politics but with first-hand experience of only one political system, it's been a fascinating couple of years.

This week, Norway voted in its first General Election since 2009. Here's some of the main differences from the UK:

Coalition Government – One of the biggest problems faced by the Lib Dems since coming to power in 2010 is the lack of experience British people have of coalition Governments. In many European countries coalition Government, and therefore political compromise, is the norm, and Norway is no exception.

This changes the focus of political debate away from the “bar-chart” tactics, to what policies a party will push for if they become part of a Government. This doesn't mean coalition tactics are out of the window of course. Venstre (Liberals) and KrF (Christian Democrats) released a pre-election statement on their common-ground, with an eye on joining forces in Government.

Nine parties – There are nine main parties covering the whole political spectrum, seven of which were represented in the Parliament before this election. Having nine parties ranging from the communist Rødt to the right-wing Progress means there is almost certainly a party representing your views.

Televised debates – You couldn't watch anything else on national broadcaster NRK in the weeks leading up to the election. Okay slight exaggeration, but there was a whole series of well-run televised debates featuring all nine main parties focusing on a different topic each time. The UK dipped its toe in the water in 2010 and from my experience here, should look to expand this significantly next time.

Advance voting – In Norway, registered voters can make their choice up to a month before polling day. Over half a million Norwegians choose this option, and I have no doubt it increases the overall turnout.

Alcohol ban – Alcohol is banned from sale in supermarkets on election day. A big surprise to me! Yet the pubs remain open, somewhat of a loophole. Gerry tells me this is also the case in Mexico, so maybe we're the weird ones for allowing people to vote drunk back in the UK…

Alcohol ban on election day

Valgvake

Valgvake literally means election monitoring. Each party hosts a valgvake, but so do churches, universities, and other groups. I attended a hastily thrown together valgvake at Digs, the new co-working office in Trondheim where I spend my days now. This was a great opportunity for me to hear the differing views about politics in Norway, and get yet another window into Norwegians do politics.

The NRK coverage of the election results were projected onto a wall, along with a nerdy spreadsheet collecting the predictions of everyone present. We also held a secret lokalvalg (local election), which was predictably won by the most pro-entrepreneurial party out there, Venstre (Liberals), and a politics quiz. And of course, there was lashings of coffee, beer and waffles!

Valgvake at Digs

Digs election result

The Election Results

The results of the General Election were as expected, here is the percentage of the vote and the number of seats won by each party (thanks to Wikipedia):

Norwegian General Election Results 2013

So has Norway lurched to the right, as reported by some foreign media? No. The Governing Red-Green coalition lost 7.5% of the vote, although PM Jens Stoltenberg's Labour party remained the biggest party. The Conservative party made substantial gains and seem highly likely to form a coalition with the Progress Party, Christian Democrats and the Liberal Party.

Of these, only the Progress Party can be truly considered right-wing, and support for them dropped by 6.6%, the biggest drop of any party in the election. Norwegians call the Conservative party right-wing (partly because their name in Norwegian, Høyre, literally means right!) but I consider them to be in the centre.

It is now the job of Conservative party leader and next Prime Minister Erna Solberg to form a coalition agreement between the four parties. What Norway is likely to end up with is a centrist Government, with minor influence from the right-wing.

There's always the possibility the Conservatives and Progress will go it alone in a minority government, with support from the Christian Democrats and/or Liberals on certain issues. The talks are likely to take several weeks – and I'm following them with interest.

It's a potentially game-changing time in Norwegian politics, and the next four years will be critical in shaping Norway's post-oil future. It'll be fascinating to watch what unfolds…

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About the Author: David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a freelance writer for technology companies in Scandinavia.

8 Comments

  1. Proper election results with numbers! Thank you very much David.
    Papers over here have commented on the position of Progress and a switch to sort-of right wing. The detail is so much more interesting and complicated. It will be fascinating to see what coalition is put together.
    I was impressed by the way the outgoing Administration handled the events after Utoya. It sounded very civilised and sensible from over here. Would other Parties have done the ‘this is a criminal trial, we will observe the courtesies.’?

    1. I agree, Jens Stoltenberg was fantastic post-Utøya and he is generally liked and respected over here, I’ve seen very little negativity towards him despite the drop in vote. I’ll try to do a follow-up post once the coalition is agreed.

  2. very interesting observations david, politics in the uk needs to rebuild honesty and respect which has been lost over the last few years at an accelerating rate.

  3. Good article. I would argue there is a party for every form of collectivism. For example, the center party wants the country run for the benefit of farmers, the progress party for pensioners etc. None of the 7 have significant disagreements on the role of state, none are liberal.

  4. Great article. Thanks for explaining this. All I’ve seen in the UK papers are articles about how Brevik was once a member of the Progress Party.

  5. Great summary David. Personally I found the Norwegian election to be very underwhelming. It seemed to pass off so clinically and without drama. The TV coverage was restrained to the point that you could hardly notice it between constant repeats of Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother. Where were the personal insults? The political heavies getting stuck into eachother, the endless spin and soundbytes? The wall to wall newspaper comment mainly about other newspaper comment? Door to door canvassers desperate for a doorstep debate? I missed all of this.

    I do applaud the ability to vote before polling day though – that is a nice touch and probably helps turnout (expensive though – many of my norwegian colleague bemoan how many people are employed to man the boothes. Easy money for students). The banning of alcohol sales is completely daft though – you can bet your last kroner that the political parties have ample bottles of champagne on ice ready for election night. Bought the day before obvisouly.

  6. When I lived in Mexico (from 1987 to 1991), not only was alcohol not available for purchase in the shops, but you could not buy any alcohol in the bars from midnight to midnight on election day. It was always amusing to watch the tourists (who apparently went to Mexico expressly for the purpose of drinking) pitch an absolute hissy fit when the bars and shops refused to sell them anything.

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