Left victory in Norway – results and analysis

September 15, 2009

js

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and his Labour Party have won an impressive victory in yesterday’s Norwegian election, increasing their share of the vote to its highest level in 12 years. Overall the left will have 86 seats to 83 for the non-socialist parties – 1 less for the left than in 2005. However Labour’s increased support seems to have came at the expense of the Socialist Left who have lost four seats and achieved the shock result which some of the polls I mentioned had been predicting of 6% (the same level the party was on in the local elections 2 years ago).

The results for all the parties in full:

Labour Party (Ap): 35.4% (+2.7), 64 seats (+3)
Progress Party (Frp): 22.9% (+0.9), 40 seats (+2)
Conservatives (H): 17.2% (+3.1), 31 seats (+8)
Centre Party (Sp): 6.2% (-0.3), 11 seats (±0)
Socialist Left (SV): 6.2% (-2.6), 11 seats (-4)
Christian People’s Party (KrF): 5.5% (-1.2), 10 seats (-1)
Liberals (V): 3.9% (-2.1), 2 seats (-8)
Red (R): 1.3% (+0.1), 0 seats (±0)

(from http://www.nrk.no/valgresultat)

And the political majorities by county:

emap1

I’m disappointed by the Socialist Left’s decline right across the country as well as the fact that Red failed to win any seats. The SV has done a reasonable job in government and have by all estimates definitely made a difference. Yet it is Labour that appears to have taken the credit. Labour’s voters certainly don’t want a more right-leaning government (as they made clear in 2001 when they abandoned the party in huge in numbers after Stoltenberg’s short-lived minority government which pushed forward privatisation and attempted to move in the same direction as ‘New Labour’ in the UK). Hopefully the SV’s decline in support will therefore not result in a reduction in their influence within the government over the next 4 years. But if they want to reverse their fall in support it will be important to have something to show for their participation in the government and be able to make clearer the differences between themselves and their much larger coalition partner.

The Red party has not done as well as most of the polls had predicted (only achieving a tiny increase at a national level) and have again failed to gain representation within the Storting. In Oslo they went up to 3.9% from 3.0% last time and were not far from gaining a seat. But in Hordaland where they traditionally do best and where leader Torstein Dahle is based, they went down from 3.4 to 2.5%. I’m not sure what the explanation for this is but it will certainly be a disappointment for the party. I think it’s surprising that Red appear not to have gained at all from the SV’s decline as you’d expect them to be natural place to go for SV supporters discontented at their party’s participation within the government and the watering down of some of their principles which has come as a result.

Among the non-socialist parties the big change has been the fall in support for the Liberals together with an increase for the Conservatives. By falling below the 4% threshold for additional seats Venstre has gone down from 10 seats to just 2. While the Liberals have lost 8 seats the Conservatives have gained the same number and while 17% for them is fairly low by historical standards it’s a clear improvement from the dismal 14% or so they got last time. Venstre leader Lars Sponheim meanwhile has said he’s resigning as leader following the Liberals’ poor performance. There are few well known figures in the party to replace him so it will be interesting to see what happens – and whether or not a change in leadership will affect the party’s strong opposition to going into a government with the Progress Party.

The fall in support for the Christian People’s Party marks a further decline for the centre/centre-right in Norwegian politics and the 5.5% they received is the party’s worst result in decades. The decline is particularly steep when compared with the party’s performance nationally in both 1997 and 2001 – 13.7 and 12.4%. The KrF in this election is down almost everywhere including within the so-called Bible Belt along the south and west coast – in Kristiansand the party won 14.4% compared to 17.7% last time.

The populist right-wing anti-immigration Progress Party has, in this election, achieved its best result ever of 23%. But it could have been a lot worse. For the last few years they’ve been doing extremely well in the polls, sometimes even being bigger than Labour with support of over 35%. However the party’s support fell with the financial crisis as the likely outcome of their neoliberal economic policies became clearer to the voters. And in the last few weeks, as their simplistic, narrow-minded, right-wing policies and solutions to the nation’s problems have been placed increasingly under the spotlight, enthusiasm for them among voters has understandably diminished. Over the next few years though the left will need to try harder than ever before to crush the so-called ‘Frp code’ and win back previously lost voters from them. Magnus Marsdal wrote an article on this for Red Pepper which makes very interesting reading: http://www.redpepper.org.uk/Underdog-politics

The Swedish left meanwhile seem very pleased at the result from the comments I’ve read on various blogs and news sites so let us hope this can be the beginning of a revival of the left in Scandinavia. In Sweden unemployment has shot through the roof and young people are rioting in major towns and cities across the country after 3 years of failed right-wing politics. There are elections due in Sweden next year and a new alliance of the Social Democrats, Left Party and Greens are hoping to take the country on a new path (including again raising taxes for the rich). And the Danes in 2011 will also have a chance to throw out the right-wing government which has been in power for the last 8 years. So an all-red Scandinavia (and an all-red Norden should Finland go the right way too) certainly isn’t out of reach.

Some articles in the papers:

0,2 prosent mer til Venstre så hadde vi hatt blågrønt flertall (Dagbladet)
De borgerlige fikk flest stemmer – tapte valget (VG)
De rødgrønne har sikret seieren (Dagbladet)
Elendig valg for Vigrid og NorgesPatriotene (Dagbladet)
Erna tror SV vil få mer gjennomslag i regjeringen (VG)
For å vinne neste valg må de andre slutte å vingle (VG)
Fortsatt for få kvinner på Stortinget (VG)
Her er det nye Stortinget (VG)
Her er løftene Jens, Kristin og Liv Signe må holde (Dagbladet)
Hyller Navarsete for uendret kurs (Dagbladet)
Jens lyste av stolthet (Dagbladet)
Kristin om forhandlingene: Det blir tøffere (VG)
Oljenæringen øyner håp for Lofoten og Vesterålen (VG)
Per-Kristian Foss gir Venstre skylda for lav valgdeltakelse (Dagbladet)
Siv får skylda for det borgerlige nederlaget (Dagbladet)
Stoltenberg-seier gir sosialdemokrater nytt håp (VG)
Stoltenberg: – Småpartiene blir ikke spist opp i regjeringen (VG)
SV ble skvist og falt mellom to stoler (Dagbladet)
Vant med rødgrønn politikk (Dagbladet)
Åpner for at SV kan bryte ut av regjeringen (VG)

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Final election debates now over

September 13, 2009

shn

See the final debates:
NRK: http://www1.nrk.no/nett-tv/klipp/547059 (free)
TV2: http://webtv.tv2.no/webtv/sumo/?progId=338537 (pay)

The final NRK TV debate was shown on Friday evening from Oslo and the last one on TV2 Saturday evening with all the party leaders present including Red party leader Torstein Dahle. I’ve been watching a lot of election coverage and debates over the last few weeks but these final ones have probably attracted the most viewers and will be nearest in people’s minds when they go the the polls tomorrow.

Overall the election campaign has been, according to Kristin Halvorsen and Torstein Dahle, one of the most boring Norway has ever seen. In their view it’s focussed far too much on the question of what parties are going to govern and not enough on important issues like the environment. Certainly no one policy issue seems to have stood out and it’s certainly the case that the declining amount of attention being given to the environment in recent weeks has hurt Halvorsen’s Socialist Left party.

The polls

But things are looking a bit more positive for the SV and the red-green coalition generally in the election polls today. The latest poll by Synovate for Dagladet has a clear left majority while the latest TV2 poll shown during the debate has the non-socialist majority down to 5 seats with the SV rising to 7.2% after days of terrible results for the party.

Here’s both polls in more detail:

Dagbladet

Labour (Ap) – 33.8% (64 seats)
Socialist Left (SV) – 9.1% (15 seats)
Centre Party (Sp) – 5.9% (10 seats)
Red (R) – 2.3% (2 seats)
Total for left – 51.1% (91 seats)

Progress Party (Frp) – 21.4% (36 seats)
Conservatives (H) – 14.5% (23 seats)
Christian People’s Party (KrF) – 6.9% (11 seats)
Liberals (V) – 4.7% (8 seats)
Total for right – 47.5% (78 seats)

TV2

Labour (Ap) – 32.5% (61 seats)
Socialist Left (SV) – 7.2% (12 seats)
Centre Party (Sp) – 5.4% (9 seats)
Red (R) – 1.8% (0 seats)
Total for left – 46.9% (82 seats)

Progress Party (Frp) – 22.2% (39 seats)
Conservatives (H) – 17.8% (31 seats)
Christian People’s Party (KrF) – 5.7% (9 seats)
Liberals (V) – 5.2% (8 seats)
Total for right – 50.9% (87 seats)

The debates

I watched both the final TV debates. Here’s a little summary of what went on (by subject area):

Care for the elderly (NRK)

The first topic on the NRK debate was care for the elderly with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg arguing that if the Progress Party get their way and cut tens of billions in tax then there won’t be the money to pay for it and for other important services. After saving up in good times Norwegians, he argues, have enough money to meet the challenges they face and to invest in decent public services. For Progress Party leader Siv Jensen though it’s not a question of money but morals. The elderly have built up Norway and deserve to be guaranteed first class care which, with Norway’s massive surplus should have been provided long before now. Labour she says have been making promises for decades while waiting lists have been getting longer and longer. Stoltenberg responded by saying they’ll guarantee a place to everyone who wants it and again asked Jensen where the money will come from when they carry forward their proposed 70 billion in tax cuts.

SV leader Kristin Halvorsen said that having good services depends on how resources are distributed in society and stressed the important of encouraging more young people to take up care jobs through better wages and ensuring higher pay and status to female-dominated professions (a point later echoed by Red leader Torstein Dahle). Conservative leader Erna Solberg went on about how we need as good economic basis to pay for things through helping businesses, improving roads and infrastructure and cutting bureaucracy. The KrF’s Dagfinn Høybråten wants more focus on preventive measures, giving guaranteed rights to the elderly and helping people who provide care to family members.

When asked about the increasing costs associated with an ageing population Liberal leader Lars Sponheim rejected the notion that standards would have to fall in future. But there must be enough people working and to this end it’s a bad idea to scare away the immigrants Norway might need in the years ahead. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg rightly went on the offensive about the rights proposed tax policies, attacking the myth that if you cut spending revenues can somehow increase. Reagan and Bush have tried that, he pointed out, and the results have not been particularly promising. And if tax cuts are so good why stop at 20 or 70 billion?

Siv Jensen’s only answer is the oil money. They must use whatever of the oil fund it takes to help the sick and elderly who need care now, whether though private facilities in Norway or paying for treatment abroad. Dagfin Høybråten then criticised Stoltenberg for claiming he has a monopoly on welfare when poverty and drug abuse have increased. According to Kristin Halvorsen Norway has far more opportunities than any other country to meet its welfare challenges but that things will be different if the Frp get their way and cut taxes, emphasising that those working in the care sector are already doing a good job.

Immigration (NRK & TV2)

Immigration got quite a lot of attention in both TV debates with most of the politicians emphasising their desire for a “tough but fair” asylum system. But nothing can be tough enough for Siv Jensen who wants closed camps for asylum seekers and immigrants without ID. Most of such people have no business in Norway and should be sent out as soon as possible in her view. Referring to Denmark she says the government there has adopted most of the policies her party supports and as a result the number of asylum seekers has been slashed to a sixth of the Norwegian level. In Norway on the other hand more are coming than ever before. Also without any evidence she claimed most drug dealers in Oslo are illegal immigrants and that they should all be got rid of. Erna Solberg agrees that Norway is too liberal and that the government has sent out the wrong messages meaning that while the number of asylum seekers going to Sweden has fallen the opposite has happened in Norway.

Liberal leader Lars Sponheim pointed out that most of the other politicians constantly try to compete on who can be the toughest with regards to immigration. Venstre on the other hand want to be a liberal voice on the issue. SV leader Kristin Halvorsen added that immigration has enriched Norwegian society and that the rights of the vulnerable and especially children should come first. However she also claims to agree with Labour on many issues and that those who abuse the system or come to Norway to break the law make things more difficult for genuine migrants and should be sent out. Centre Party leader Signe Navarsete also thought immigration has benefited Norway economically while wanting a “tough but fair” system. While she sees immigrants as a potential resource Jensen only sees them as a problem. Christian People’s Party leader Dagfinn Høybråten meanwhile wants Norway to take in more quota refugees and show its generosity to those genuinely fleeing from persecution. Helping others is part of Norway’s identity in his view. But at the same time he believes the situation has got out of control and the government needs to be much faster and more efficient at sending illegals out.

Red leader Torstein Dahle made the very good point that everyone talks about asylum and immigration from the premises of Jensen and the Progress Party. There is a large stream of migration in the world for various reasons but it’s nonsense to think they’re all heading for Norway, he added. Immigrants in his view should have the chance to work immediately and should be given permanent residence if they’ve stayed in the country for at least 15 months. He also (on TV2) talked about the scandal of immigrants in Norway being discriminated against and finding it impossible to gain jobs despite doing their utmost to be integrated into society.

Most agreed about the importance of integration with Jens Stoltenberg pointing to statistics suggesting that Norway’s has the lowest unemployment among immigrants in Europe. Keeping unemployment low is crucial in his view. Important to integration for Kristin Halvorsen meanwhile is the abolition of “kontantstøtten” (or state support for parents who stay at home to look after their children. In Oslo 80% of those receiving it are of an immigrant background and abolishing it will encourage more immigrant women into the workplace.

Environment (NRK)

The environment was mentioned on NRK with most of the debate centring around Lofoten. Stoltenberg has again said it’s foolish for the Conservatives and Progress Party to push for drilling without doing all the necessary research first. He will only go for drilling if it can be justifies from an environmental and fisgheries perspective.

According to Kristin Halvorsen on the other hand the SV already have the knowledge they need to firmly reject any drilling. The area has the world’s largest cod population and researchers have said that any oil activity there is a bad idea. She emphasised the importance of the issue for the SV but would not give a clear guarantee on the issue with regards to forming a government as Lars Sponheim has. According to Halvorsen the best way to prevent drilling is to vote SV as Labour have not yet taken a clear decision and the SV can push them on the issue. The two largest non-socialist parties by comparison have both already taken a clear position in support of drilling.

On the right Conservative leader Erna Solberg described oil and gas as the country’s most important industry, claiming that if they cut back on it they won’t raise the money they need for elderly care and other important priorities. According to Siv Jensen the SV has rejected every single oil and gas project over the last few decades and if they had had their way there would never have been any oil fund at all.

The KrF’s Dagfinn Høybråten criticised the SV for being part of a government which has allowed state-owned company Statoil to invest in the environmentally catastrophic tar sands project in Canada and not being able to get anything done to stop it. According to Halvorsen though the KrF lost similar fights in the last government and that they can win in Lofoten.

Centre Party leader Liv Signe Navarsete pointed out that Norway would remain an important oil and gas nation for decades ahead but that in the meantime Norway needs to focus more on renewable energy. Her party also is committed to an oil-free Lofoten. Criticising the Frp she claimed that if they had had their way all the oil exploration rights would have been sold off to foreign companies. Norway needs an energy politics that is viable and makes sense in the long-term. Red leader Torstein Dahle stressed the enormousness of the climate challenge ahead, pointing out that protection against oil leaks is useless in areas like Lofoten where the weather is so rough for much of the year.

The next government (NRK)

The leaders were all asked again about who would form the next government and what guarantees they will all give. According to Solberg the non-socialist (or borgerlig) parties all agree on many things such as abolishing wealth and inhereitance tax, building better roads and bring down health queues, and should therefore find a way to work together after the election should the government lose its majority. Frp leader Siv Jensen emphasised that they are the largest non-socialist party and want to work together with the other three, but that they won’t support a government they are not part of on issues like national budgets. She will do all she can to ensure Frp voters get the influence they deserve.

For Liberal leader Lars Sponheim there are fundamental differences between his party and the Frp and he will not be in the same government as them. He wants a minority government with the Conservatives and Christian People’s Party and believes minority governments are better and more democratic anyway. Dagfinn Høybråten of the KrF also wants a centre-right government without the Frp. But is concerned first with getting rid of the current government which has threatened the traditional Christian family and not done enough to tackle poverty.

Stoltenberg was then asked if he’d actually have to go if he lost his majority as the right might not be able to form an alternative government due to Siv Jensen’s guarantees. He said he doesn’t think she’ll go back on her word but that the non-socialist parties will find a way of getting in again regardless like they did in 2001. If voters want economic stability and a government that continues to create safe jobs then they must give the government a majority.

Navarsete is happy with her role as part of the government and said that the Sp have got a lot of good centrist policies through together with Labour and the Socialist Left. SV leader Halvorsen meanwhile will try to mobilise all of her parties sympathisers in the last few days. She wants schools to be an important issue and said that the Frp will move towards privatisation. Red leader Torstein Dahle wants a continued red-green government and would not contribute to its fall. However his one demand is that uførepensjon (a sort of incapacity benefit for the sick and disabled I believe) is not cut. Stoltenberg finished by saying that is voters want as minimal influence as possible for the Frp the red-green government must continue.

What is election about? (TV2)

This was the first question in the TV2 debate. Prime Minister Stoltenberg described the election as a referendum on the welfare state while Socialist Left leader Kristin Halvorsen said it’s about whether or not we build out the welfare state or cut taxes as the right wants. The opposition parties, Stoltenberg added, are not good for business because of the uncertainty that will surround any majority they might gain on Monday. Conservative leader Erna Solberg complained that Norway has became less competitive by certain measures under the current government. But for Stoltenberg the most important way to measure a country is by its unemployment rate (which in Norway is the lowest in Europe).

For Dagfinn Høybråten the left no longer has anything to offer and all they can do is scare people. They portray themselves as being the world’s best on welfare when poverty has increased and more people are being excluded long-term from the workplace. Centre Party leader Navarsete pointed out though that in every budget under the left support for the communes has been increased as has the minimum pension and other forms of social welfare. The red-green government, she says, will put welfare before tax cuts. 40,000 new people have been employed in the communes in the last 4 years.

Naturally Siv Jensen doesn’t agree. She says that communes are short of money and have had to cut back in services. That the increase in waiting lists in hospitals shows that red-green politics don’t work. She would solve the problem by sending patients to private hospitals and buying up unused capacity both at home and abroad.

The election, for Prime Minister and Labour leader Jens Stoltenberg, is about the direction society will move in. Everyone wants better care for the elderly but not everyone can afford it because they’ve spent it all on tax cuts. Kristin Halvorsen added that the economy needs regulation and that Bush-style market thinking can’t be allowed to take over. While the Conservatives will cut taxes they will also, she claims, send lots of extra bills to people by for example allowing the cost of nursery places to increase and by abolishing free textbooks in school.

According to Red leader Torstein Dahle people fear social dumping and cuts in welfare. The red-green government are more likely to listen to the unions but they have failed when it comes to poverty. Red are the only party who will ensure benefit levels are set at the same level nationally and not allowed to vary by commune like they are at the moment. Erna Solberg meanwhile wants tax cuts first for businesses and people on low to middle incomes. The country needs better public services and Høyre will do something about wage structures to make jobs such as teaching and nursing more attractive.

For Liberal leader Lars Sponheim the government has not used their enormous economic resources to move the country in the right direction so as to cope with the ageing population, reorganisation of the public sector and supporting green businesses. Kristin Halvorsen responded saying it’s good Norway has Europe’s lowest unemployment and that it’s already one of the greenest countries. While things still have a long way to go the country’s moving in the right direction and will continue to do so should the left win on Monday.

Appeal to the voters (NRK & TV2)

At the end of both debates all the party leaders got the chance to make a short and final appeal to the voters.

Kristin Halvorsen (SV) – If you want more teachers, no drilling off Lofoten, and no of tax cuts then you need us. Women who think it unjust that they earn less need the SV. As do the men who live with them as satisfied women also mean satisfied men. Our voters can decide what type of government we have. They can ensure a new red green government and against right-wing control. In the last hours we will mobilise everything we can, finishing in Lofoten. We need our voters and they need us.

Liv Signe Navarsete (Sp) – The Centre Party want a good country for us all to live in. Those who provide care, work voluntarily or in industry, we will fight to give you a better daily life. We will invest in roads, railways, green workplaces and renewable energy. We want resources for schools and more care workers with good conditions. Sp guarantees against the EU, if you want to build up the country and have solidarity between people vote for us.

Lars Sponheim (V) – We have been clear, Norway needs an environmentally-friendly society and a modern welfare system. Venstre can be as good as the red parties when it comes to the environment and as good as the blue parties when it comes to business. We need companies to solve the climate crisis. We put people at the centre and defend their right to be treated as an individual. Too little has happened in the last few years. Venstre needs a strong say and is important for Norway.

Torstein Dahle (R) – Red wants a continued red-green government. But it has not always been red and green enough. Will protect rights of the uføre (disabled) which Dag Terje Andersen will threaten. We need your vote. We can get seats in Solo and Hordaland. Help Erling Folkvord and me get into to the Strortinget, vote Red.

Jens Stoltenberg (Ap) – Many don’t vote because they think no party is best for them. But no perfect party exists. Look for a party where you agree with on the important issues. We have used money on impotant things and have achieved full barnehagedekning (nursery coverage), we will do the same with care for the elderly. We need safe workplaces and secure businesses. We will solve things together as a common task.

Erna Solberg (H) – Many have spoken about what they are against. We have spoken about what we are for – a lower tax burden for businesses, better schools, less heath queues, safer roads. To achieve all this vote Høyre. We will build a new government with your vote.

Dagfinn Høybråten (KrF) – Politics is about visions and getting things done. We want more freedom for families, flexible time off for new parents and higher kontantstøtten. We will protect children affected by alcohol and drug abuse. We want a better quality of life, lower MOMS (VAT) on fruit and vegetables, legal rights to better elderly care and yes to life help, no to assisted suicide. We will build attractive places to work. More teachers not hours longer school hours. Make a value choice on Monday.

Siv Jensen (Frp) – This election is about your life, about you and your family. We are there for you if you get angry every time you pass a road toll booth, are worried about uncontrolled immigration, or about your family having to pay too much tax. The elderly should have same guaranteed rights as children. We are the only party who cares about you. You can be irritated for another 4 years or you can go and vote for us.

And some election links that might be of interest

Some recent election articles:

Siste partilederdebatt er over, men siste ord er ikke sagt
Jeg er meget kamplysten
EU-debatten?
Sponheim med total avvisning av Frp
Kristin: – Jeg er ikke sliten nå
Mulige regjeringsmakkere vil ikke ha hverandre

VG has short videos where all the party leaders make a last appeal for support from the voters:

Jens Stoltenberg: Derfor bør du stemme Ap
Kristin Halvorsen: Derfor bør du stemme SV
Liv Signe Navarsete: Derfor bør du stemme Sp
Erna Solberg: Derfor bør du stemme Høyre
Siv Jensen: Derfor bør du stemme Frp
Dagfinn Høybråten: Derfor bør du stemme KrF
Lars Sponheim: Derfor bør du stemme Venstre
Torstein Dale: Derfor bør du stemme Rødt

Socialist Left in trouble

September 11, 2009

kh

SV leader Kristin Halvorsen

Things aren’t looking good for the Socialist Left party in the latest polls. The party has sunk to around the 6% level in most of those carried out in the last few days which is roughly the same as their disastrous 2007 local election result and their 1997 Stortingsvalg. According to a report on NRK today, which included interviews with some students in Oslo, only around half of those who voted SV 4 years ago have remained loyal to the party with most of those who have abandoned it moving over to Labour.

And there’s a report here on VG about the district of Grünerløkka in eastern Oslo where last time over 22% of people voted SV. Now though many have changed their mind and plan to vote Labour:

http://www.vg.no/nyheter/innenriks/valg-2009/artikkel.php?artid=580180

SV deputy leader Audun Lysbakken who was also interviewed in the NRK report explained that it is the SV’s influence in government which has moved Labour to the left and made it more acceptable to former SV voters. However if the red-green coalition falls or the SV’s influence is decreased then Labour, he argues, will again move in the opposite direction. I think this is probably right since Stoltenberg’s first short-lived Labour minority government (2000-2001) came out in favour of privatisation and weakened its alliance with the unions, leading to a massive disillusionment among its traditional supporters and one of their worst election results ever in 2001 with just 24% of the vote. It is to be hoped that Labour has learned from this but it will still be a big uncertainty if they again get the chance to lead a minority government and are able to cooperate with the right on various issues.

Hopefully the SV can make a final push in the last few days and get Lysbakken’s message across to as many of their sympathisers as possible. It’s good that Kristin Halvorsen has came out today clearer than ever before that they can win with regards to preventing oil drilling in Lofoten and that a strong SV is essential if the government is to have as good a profile on environmental issues as possible.

Right-wing parties lead in school election

September 9, 2009

skolevalg

Here’s the national figures for yesterday’s school election (change from 2007 school election in brackets):

Labour – 23.8% (+2.6)
Progress Party – 23.7% (+2.6)
Conservatives – 16.3% (-1.2)
Socialist Left – 10.4% (-0.4)
Liberals – 6.0% (+1.0)
Centre Party – 5.7% (-1.5)
Red – 4.8% (-1.9)
Christian People’s Party – 3.7% (-0.1)

Full details here (http://www.samfunnsveven.no)

Which gives a total of 44.7% for the three governing parties + Rødt and 49.7% for the four main non-socialist parties.

When the Green Party (who got 1.2% nationally) are included the left has a small majority in Oslo. They also come first in Northern Norway and Trøndelag, get a small majority in Oppland, Hedmark and Telemark, and a huge majority in Sogn og Fjordane. The right by contrast come far ahead in Rogaland, Hordland, Møre og Romsdal, Sørlandet and most of the areas directly east, south and west of Oslo (ie. Vestfold, Østfold and Buskerud). Worryingly the neo-nazi party Vigrid received 4% in Buskerud (the only county where they’re standing) and in one school where they participated in a debate they received 10% of the vote.

While the overall results don’t seem too much different from 2007 they do differ quite a lot from the one held at the time of the last Stortingsvalg in 2005. Then the results were reversed and the left was ahead with over 50%. The party to have lost out the most are the Socialist Left who declined to just over 10% from the 16.6% they received in 2005. Socialist Youth leader Mali Steiro Tronsmoen on Dagsnytt 18 explained that young people like to support the opposition and that inevitably her party has suffered by being part of the government (and as the junior partner not being as successful in getting their policies through as their supporters would have liked).

Also down are the right-wing Progress Party who in 2005 were the largest party in the school election with 25.2%. This is perhaps further evidence to suggest that the Progress Party is not going to do nearly as well in Monday’s election as they would have hoped (and as the polls had been suggesting they would for much of the last few years).

http://www.dagbladet.no/2009/09/08/nyheter/skolevalg/stortingsvalget_2009/8014853
http://www.vg.no/nyheter/innenriks/valg-2009/artikkel.php?artid=573958

Swedes debate ‘feminist’ porn

September 7, 2009

me

Film-maker Mia Engberg

A debate has been going on in Sweden for the last couple of weeks over the concept of feminist porn and whether or not it’s right for the state to be funding it, following the release on the 3rd of September (in cinemas and on DVD) of a new project by left-wing, feminist documentary film-maker Mia Engberg. Called ‘Dirty Diaries’ it includes 12 short erotic films directed by a number of different women and has a diverse range of content aimed especially at female viewers (website at dirtydiaries.se). Controversially the film received 500,000 kroner in state funding through the Swedish Film Institute (SFI) which has led to allegations of a waste of taxpayers money. According to Beatrice Fredriksson, a member of the Swedish right-wing Moderate Party’s youth league (and a self-declared “anti-feminist”):

“Most people would agree that the state should not fund pornography. And when it does, should it really only benefit women, all in the name of equality? If a man had sought and received similar funding for ‘regular’ porn, it wouldn’t have taken long before there was an outcry from supporters of equality between the sexes…

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Art is subjective. For the state to decide that feminist porn is art but ‘regular’ porn is reprehensible is little more than paternalistic moralising and sends out all the wrong signals in the equality debate. Equality is an important issue, but it should never function as a cloak for state funding of ideologies that are somehow deemed correct in the eyes of the authorities.”

She also appears to claim, incorrectly, that it’s a purely lesbian film, saying that: “By labelling lesbian sex as feminist, it also contributes to the prejudiced notion that the equality debate is all about excluding men and privileging women… Lesbian porn is far from the solution to creating a porn market that appeals to more women. While it might very well broaden the market for people with different sexual orientations, it should not trade under the banner of feminism.”

As someone who supports radical feminist theories and the ideas behind the anti-porn/anti-sex industry movement, the concept of ‘feminist’ porn is something that I’m not particularly keen on (for completely different reasons from Beatrice Fredriksson of course). Especially when it’s often been done so badly in other countries – take for example ‘feminist’ Tristan Taormino in the USA who makes films for the huge mainstream porn company Vivid, has worked with notoriously vile misogynistic pornographers such as John Stagliano, seemingly makes no attempt to challenge the pro-patriarchal ideas and assumptions behind the capitalist sex industry (such as the traditional male gaze), and never misses the opportunity to defend the commercial use of women’s bodies.

Mia Engberg, by contrast though, would appear to have a lot more sympathy for the ideas which have emerged out of the radical feminist movement, recognising oppressive capitalist and patriarchal structures in society, condemning “sick beauty ideals” in the manifesto behind the film, and saying that mainstream porn holds little appeal to her and that noone should contribute towards an industry that “makes money out of women’s bodies” when being asked whether or not mainstream porn should also receive state funding. Her film, she says, is “not created with a profit motive or for the benefit of a male audience”. In her view:

“When commercial forces take over pictures of people then the pictures are often no longer true. This is true both for Hollywood films and for mainstream porn… Personally I’m a tired mother of a small child and I don’t think porn is so sexy. I can’t look at it without wondering about the circumstances in which it was produced. But I don’t like Hollywood films either. They lie about the realities.”

Opposition to the exploitative commercial sex industry is in my view immensely important and should be one of the top priorities of the feminist movement – because how can we possibly build an egalitarian society when women are constantly reduced to mindless, dehumanised sex objects existing to satisfy men and to make huge amounts of money for corporations and organised criminals? However at the same time as we fight against this some believe it’s also possible (and desirable) to promote alternative images of human sexuality to challenge the harmful ones which exist all around us and which exert enormous influence over our sexual imagination. This is perhaps especially important with regards to teenagers and young people who are trying to find out about sex and end up being bombarded with a disgusting array of misogynistic contempt on the internet and elsewhere.

From the comments by Mia Engberg and some of the other women involved in this particular project it would appear that they do desire radical change and see the film as potentially being a help in building towards their feminist goals. The film is of course almost certainly not without its shortcomings and many feminists will understandably question some of the motives behind it, as well as having doubts as to how effective it actually will be in terms of changing our society in a positive direction. Some don’t see the need for any sort of pornography and believe that the film could serve to justify or legitimise its existence more generally. Others think it will inevitably end up being objectifying towards the participants one way or the other. Whatever the case is though it’s good, I believe, that people in Sweden are discussing what true sexual liberation might involve and how this differs from the phoney pro-patriarchal type which is endlessly promoted through the media and the commercial sex industry.

Some of the articles on the film in English:

Publicly funded ‘feminist porn’ to premiere (The Local)
Feminist porn ‘challenges traditional gender roles’ by Mia Engberg (The Local)
‘Feminist’ porn film funded by taxpayers opens in Sweden (AFP)

and in Swedish

articles from the papers:

Porr för feminister? (Dagens Nyheter)
Kvinnor tar nye grepp på porren (Svenska Dagbladet)
Subversivt på sängkanten (Helsingborgs Dagblad)

interviews/articles with/by Mia Engberg:

Fler kvinnor borde göra porrfilm (Newsmill)
Kan porr vara feministisk? (Aftonbladet)
Feministisk porr vill skaka om (Dagens Nyheter)

and articles by some of the other women involved:

Porren är mitt vapen mot gud och kapitalismen
by Elin Magnusson (Newsmill)
Vi behöver fler kåta kvinnor i offentligheten by Marit Östberg (Newsmill)

Election update

September 7, 2009

I should have been paying more attention to what’s been going on in recent days but here’s some of the political stories that are making the news in Dagbladet and VG, Norway’s two main tabloids:

Majority for left + less think Siv is doing a good job (article): In the latest poll for Dagbladet published on Saturday the left is again ahead:

Labour – 32.2
Progress Party – 22.2
Conservatives – 13.4
Socialist Left – 7.9
Centre Party – 7.5
Christian People’s Party – 6.6
Liberals – 4.8
Red – 3.2

Which is 90 seats for the left (the best I’ve seen in any poll so far) and 79 for the non-socialist parties. In addition Progress Party leader Siv Jensen’s approval rating (or those who say she has done a good job) has fallen from 41% to 37% while 23% say she’s handled the campaign badly. The Conservative leader Erna Solberg has gone forward 5 points to 36%. As for Labour leader Jens Stoltenberg 49% say he’s done a good job in the campaign while only 10% are dissatisfied with his job as Prime Minister.

Sandberg worried about Progress Party losing support (article): Progress Party deputy leader Per Sandberg is complaining that his party’s 100 day plan which was launched last Saturday got far less media attention than he had hoped at the election campaign is going in a worrying way for the FrP. Also mentioned in the article is a long term electoral survey which shows that the Progress Party has lost thousands of potential voters during the campaign while the governing parties have campaigned. This type of survey is apparently more accurate in predicting behaviour than more conventional opinion polls.

In another article former Progress Party leader Carl I Hagen has accused NRK of being biased when it comes to the questioning of different party leaders in their TV debates. He claims that Siv Jensen has been treated much more harshly than Socialist Left leader Kristin Halvorsen.

Progress Party will invest in nuclear weapons (article): The Progress Party will cancel Norway’s ethical investment policy and invest in companies involved both in producing nuclear weapons and in financially supporting Israel’s barbaric occupation of Palestinian land. They also want to massively cut aid to Africa and slash Norway’s contribution to the UN. And they’ll cut back on Norway’s involvement in helping to negotiate peace deals in different parts of the world, massively step up military involvement in Afghanistan, and never support any policies in the Middle East which they believe will threaten Israel’s security. All these proposals were mentioned on the TV news programme Dagsrevyen last night and fortunately given a very critical hearing by various academics and officials among the international community.

Conservatives want a picture of Erna and Siv (article): The Progress Party are annoyed after Conservative leader Erna Solberg had her picture taken with the Liberal and Christian People’s Party leaders at a joint meeting, suggesting in their view that the Conservatives are downplaying a possible coalition with them in favour of one with the centre. The Conservatives though want to assure people, especially Progress Party supporters it would appear, that this is not the case by having a similar picture taken of Erna with Siv Jensen.

Jens losing voters over lack of position on oil drilling in Lofoten (article): While the Labour Party have not taken a clear position on oil drilling outside Lofoten and Vesterålen many of their supporters have. 40% think that the proposed drilling is wrong compared to 28% who support it and as a result 166,000 voters can apparently abandon Labour for one of the other parties that have taken a position on the drilling. Significantly more oppose than support drilling among supporters of all parties except the Progress Party and Conservatives. Opposition is strongest among supporters of the Socialist Left (78%), Red (67%), Liberals (55%), Christian People’s Party (52%) and Centre Party (42%). Another article in Dagbladet reveals that support for drilling is much stronger among men than women (41% as opposed to 19% of women).

Wake Up!

September 7, 2009

Here’s a comment article I read in Dagsavisen and thought was really good in terms of showing just what is at stake in the approaching Norwegian election which is now just a week away. My translation is likely not to be without mistakes so it’s probably best to read the original version if you understand Norwegian:

WAKE UP!
By Per Fugelli Wahlgren
Professor of Social Medicine, University of Oslo

It is early morning and people are on their way to work. In Brugata in Oslo stands a nice lady warning us against the end time and handing out the newspaper Wake Up! A little later I am sitting on the tram reading Aftenposten where Siv Jensen proudly promises: When we get power we will change Norway! And I suddenly get the desire to shout aloud to the people on the 17 tram: Wake up!

Here on the number 17 tram sit doctors, beggars, students, unemployed, teachers, carpenters, disability benefits, estate agents, pizza salespeople, web designers, drug addicts and a nun. They live in the world’s best country. Time after time the United Nations has given the Norwegian welfare state first place in terms of security, equality, happiness and personal development. But has the welfare state also provided the opportunity for lethargy, for people to take it for granted, to believe that it is as durable as the Dovrefjell and therefore does not need defence?

Medical research shows that when we build welfare state we simultaneously develop the health society. In countries with a fair distribution of wealth there is good public health. In countries with large differences between groups of people there is poor health. There there is more isolation, degradation, aggression, violence, crime and substance abuse. Less sense of belonging, confidence and participation.

Wake up! I want to cry, but do not dare to and therefore write it instead: Wake up! and see that a Progress Party-Conservative government will dismantle the welfare state, bit by bit. It’s about a notification of “murder.” The programmes of the two parties are ominously honest in saying they will:

Reduce social welfare. Build a dual health care system, a bad one for ordinary people, a good one for the rich. Create a two-part school, bad for ordinary people, good for the rich. Weaken the Working Conditions Act and the trade unions. Set equality back. Create cracks in the relationship between town and country. Give big tax cuts for the wealthy with sharpened divisions in society as a result.

Political practice is centred around a value basis. The Progress Party and the Conservatives find each other in a human vision that breaks suddenly and harshly with that which has shaped the Welfare State: Conservative parties regard the person as an individual unit. There is no such thing as a society, preached iron lady Margaret Thatcher who Siv Jensen and Erna Solberg look up to. Solidarity is a burden. The state is unwanted interference. You are all on your own.

Right-wing parties cultivate strength and despise weakness. The winner will be the star, the loser shamed. In school, children will be ranked as strong and weak all the way up from 8 years of age. Right-wing parties is unwilling to put themselves in the place of others. Mercy to vulnerable groups is replaced with condemnation. The moral pointing finger and economic whip against “the weak person” are the Conservative and Progress Party’s tools.

The Progress Party has a long and ugly history of breaking down the dignity of single mothers, welfare clients, the unemployed and those on disability benefit. Conservatives follow up by locking the same people, in all 700,000, into what they call “the outsiders” They are the chronically ill, disabled, unemployed, and social clients. To be sure that they receive enough shame Erna Solberg calls them “social losers”. They more than suggest that people outside lack will and strength, that they are there out of laziness and choice.

The social mercilessness is especially brutal in the Progress Party’s treatment of ethnic minorities. Throughout its history, they cast suspicion, and inferiority upon the immigrants, especially Muslims. On April the 18th 1963 wrote Anders Lange, the Progress Party’s founder, on page 1 of his paper Hundeavisen: “Everyone who goes in for black majority rule in South Africa are traitors to the white race.” Lange is praised on the Progress Party’s website today. And his racist spirit haunts, among others, former Progress Party leader Carl I Hagen. In 2007, Hagen released his most recent lie in a book with the title “Honestly Told”. Here he discusses the Muslim Jesus as the “war-lord, rapist and woman abuser Mohammed, who murdered and accepted rape as war technique”.

This man, and this party the Conservatives want to govern with.

Wake up! For the first time in Norway’s recent history we are facing a choice that could change our country in a deep and long-lasting way. Norwegian values are threatened, cries the Progress Party, and places the evil eye on the immigrants. Yes, Norwegian values are threatened in this election, but from within, by a Progress Party-Conservative government that will: Give up work for equality and introduce ranking in high and low. Turn away from solidarity and introduce the will of the strongest. Freeze the social climate by throwing suspicion and shame on vulnerable groups. Threaten social diversity by requiring that to be part of our flock, you must become like us, think like us, preferably adopt our God. Deny environmental responsibility and give first place to profit now.

Wake up! good people on tram number 17 and everyone else in Norwegian society. The welfare state is good to live in, but it is not as in the hymn: as strong as a castle. The welfare state is a fragile construction. It can go to pieces. We must defend it.

Here is our common political challenge: to build the welfare state further so that each of the 4,784,112 inhabitants of this country, especially the 700,000 in the Conservative Party’s group of “outsiders” and the 200,000 immigrants the Progress Party wish to exclude, have a community they can belong to, be safe in, work in, love and experiment in, cultivate their God and look for meaning in. And to make it better for their children and grandchildren to live in.

Another poll gives lead to the left – Red hold balance of power

August 29, 2009

Another poll is out today, this time for Dagbladet and NRK. Here both the Socialist Left and Conservatives continue their upward trend and the Progress Party remain at a low level compared to where they’ve been in the polls for most of the the last 3 or 4 years. The Red party’s support is also up and according to this poll they would get 2 seats, giving them the balance of power between the current coalition which would get 84 seats and the non-socialist parties who would get 83. A continued Red-Green government having to rely on the Red party for a majority would be an ideal scenario as far as I’m concerned although according to Dagbladet Socialist Left leader Kristin Halvorsen won’t consider the possibility because what the government should be doling is focussing on getting a majority for themselves. In the article Halvorsen also puts her party’s rising support down to their strong position against drilling in Lofoten and the large amount of focus which has been given to environmental issues during the campaign. According to this poll the SV will meet their target of 10% support or more (as opposed to the 8.8% they received last time).

Labour (Ap) – 32.3% (-0.7)

Progress Party (Frp) – 22.1% (+0.1)

Conservatives (H) – 15.0% (+0.6)

Socialist Left (SV) – 10.4% (+0.5)

Centre Party (Sp) – 5.7% (-0.5)

Christian People’s Party (KrF) – 5.7% (-0.4)

Liberals (V) – 4.7% (-0.4)

Red (R) – 2.3% (+1.0)

Red-Green victory according to TV2

August 28, 2009

According to TV2’s new poll the 4 parties of the left will receive a majority of 5 seats with 86 seats going to the current governing coalition, 1 seat going to the Red party and 82 seats going to the non-socialist parties. The party to gain the most in this poll is again the Socialist Left party while the Progress Party have lost support and are on a level not much higher than the 22% they received last time. The Conservatives will do a good bit better here than according to NRK’s last poll, meaning that a Conservative/Liberal/Christian People’s party coalition would be just as strong as a Conservative/Progress Party one.

Labour (Ap) – 33.0% (-0.9)

Progress Party (Frp) – 23.5% (-1.3)

Conservatives (H) – 14.6% (+1.4)

Socialist Left (SV) – 8.5% (+1.8)

Christian People’s Party (KrF) – 6.3% (-0.1)

Centre Party (Sp) – 5.9% (-0.9)

Liberals (V) – 5.1% (-0.3)

Red (R) – 2.0% (-0.7)

Fundamentalist Christians – ban gay marriage, support Israel and kick out Jens

August 19, 2009

I put Visjon Norge (a fundamentalist Christian TV channel) on for a laugh a few hours ago. Before some American nutter came on – who thinks that cancer is a punishment from God – it was Jan Hanvold speaking about the election, appealing to all Christians to use their vote. Because if they don’t they’re apparently committing a dreadful sin against God. Referring to a headline in the papers saying that immigrants can decide the election (with him making some jokes about the sinful Muslims out there who they all need to pray for), he claimed that it is in fact Christians who have the power to decide. They are the ones who can overthrow the heathen government of Jens Stoltenberg and bring back some Christian morality to their country.

Referring back to the Muslims he treated us all to the amusing, if not a little disturbing, claim that Bush has done a great job in Iraq. How? Because in his victory he showed Muslims that the Christian God is stronger than theirs and apparently as a result millions of them are now believing in Jesus. So I suppose that should give you a little insight into the minds of people like Jan Hanvold.

Anyway today (Wednesday) also marks the launch of Kristenfolket some group/website which aims to help Christians influence the political process and to tell them what party or candidate they should vote for. The latter should be decided in their view based on 5 questions:

1. Will they abolish the gay marriage law?
2. What do they think on assisted suicide?
3. Do they want the Norwegian embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?
4. Do they support Israel’s ‘security fence’?
5. Will they do everything possible to ensure a non-socialist majority means a non-socialist government?

Naturally the candidates of the three red-green coalition parties are ignored but voters get the opportunity to choose between the Christian People’s Party, Progress Party, Conservatives, Liberals, Coast Party and the Christian Unity Party.

Among the main parties most candidates for the Christian People’s Party and Progress Party say they support banning gay marriage while almost all Conservatives and Liberals think the current law should remain in place. Only a few candidates from the Progress Party say yes to assisted suicide while all others reject it. On the Israel questions again the Progress Party and KrF are on one side, with most of their candidates answering yes to both questions, while most Liberals and Conservatives are on the other. On the last question the candidates who most consistently say yes are from the Conservatives while those from the other parties who answered are divided (except from the Liberals who all say no).

Last week on Dagsrevyen they interviewed someone from a fundamentalist newspaper who was expressing the complaints of many other extreme Christians who think the Christian People’s Party is letting down its Christian principles. The reason is that they’re saying too much about poverty, foreign aid and the environment and not enough about the evils of gay marriage and the wonders of the state of Israel (as a result many will now vote for the Progress Party). Somehow I think that Jesus himself may have been more concerned about the former, but then I’m not a Christian so I suppose I’ll have to leave it up to people like Jan Hanvold to decide what matters the most.