Final election debates now over

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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

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