13/09/2005 - Results
The leftwing forces (DNA, SV & Sp), who were standing together for the first time in the kingdom's history won the general elections on 12th September.
The Labour Party (DNA) is still the country's leading party and won 61 seats, i.e. 18 more than in the previous election on 10th September 2001). The Left Socialist Party (SV), one of the other parties in the leftwing coalition won fifteen seats (eight less) and the Centre Party (Sp), eleven seats (plus one). Labour leader Jens Stoltenberg, who had promised during the election campaign to provide the country with a clear majority, won his wager and achieved the absolute majority to which he was aspiring. Together the three leftwing parties now have 87 MP's out of the 169 in the Storting (the only Chamber of Parliament). "Labour has taken a fantastic step forwards. We shall be the leading party in Parliament," declared Jens Stoltenberg on the announcement of the results.
The bourgeois bloc comprising the three outgoing government coalition parties (KrF, H & V) has therefore fallen behind; two of the three parties recorded a definite decline in comparison with the 2001 election. The Popular Christian Party (KrF) led by Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik won eleven seats, i.e. eleven less than four years ago, the Conservative Party (H), twenty four seats (fourteen less). The Liberal Party (V) managed to rise above the 4% threshold necessary to be represented in Parliament, enabling it to take ten seats (plus eight).
The Progress Party (FrP) became the kingdom's second most popular political party (and the first in the opposition), easily beating its main competitor, the Conservative Party by winning 37 seats (eleven more). The party's electoral campaign and its promises to the cap the price of petrol in service stations –one of the highest in the world (1.5 euro per litre due to taxes) in a country which is rich in oil – to reduce taxes on alcohol and to exploit oil reserves (representing in June 1,183 billion kroner, i.e. 152 billion euro) to help the poorest managed to convince a great number of Norwegians. When the results were announced Carl Hagen thanked voters for "having transformed a dream into reality".
The Coastal Party (KYST) won two seats.
The participation rate lay at 76.1% i.e. slightly more than that recorded during the previous general elections on 10th September 2001 (plus 1.6 points).
In spite of the comeback made by the government coalition in the most recent polls Labour leader Jens Stoltenberg was confident as he went to vote in one of Oslo's schools: "I think we are going to crack open the champagne," whilst forecasting an extremely close run election. The leftwing coalition leader campaigned on the need to spend more on the poorest arguing that Kjell Magne Bondevik's government's tax rebates had only benefited Norwegians richest citizens and highlighting the increase in the number of those excluded by the system. According to national statistics the number of people considered as "poor" now affects 5.2% of the population.
Voters therefore chose change and preferred a renewal of the Welfare State put forward by the leftwing coalition instead of more tax rebates as promised by the outgoing government coalition.
Over the next few months the leftwing coalition should be starting to spend more money on education, healthcare and aid for the elderly whilst maintaining strict budgetary discipline. "Norway can do better. We have vast potential and we can spend our money in better ways," maintained Jens Stoltenberg.
With regard to the question of Norway joining the European Union it is highly unlikely that this will feature on the next government's agenda since the social democrats disagree with their partners on this subject and a majority of Norwegians are still against the idea (35.5% of Norwegians are in favour versus 44.9% who say they are against it according to a recent poll undertaken on 31st May last and published in the daily Verdens Gang (VG)). The fact that a new coalition is coming to power should not in fine lead to any major changes in the kingdom's policy.
Forty-six year-old Jens Stoltenberg will therefore be the next Prime Minister of Norway. He is the son of a Labour Secretary of State and famous diplomat, Thorvald Stoltenberg (former Foreign and Defence Minister, former Norwegian Ambassador at the UN and special representative of the UN's Secretary General for former Yugoslavia in 1993), who was very much against the USA's war in Vietnam, breaking for example the windows of the American Embassy in Oslo in 1973 in protest against the bombing of Haiphong by the US Air Force. A Maoist at the time he was also against NATO and the European Union. After studying economy Jens Stoltenberg tried his hand at journalism and joined the Labour Party where he became the protégé of Gro Harlem Brundtland, the kingdom's Prime Minister (from February to October 1981, then from 1986 to 1989 and finally from 1990 to 1996). His political rise has been brilliant. He was elected MP when he was thirty-two years old in 1991 and became vice-President of the Labour Party the following year. He was Minister for Energy then for Finance in Gro Harlem Brundtland's government taking office as the kingdom's Prime Minister in 2000 when he was forty-one after having caused the fall of the Kjell Magne Bondevik's government over an internal disagreement on the project to build a gas-powered power station which the Prime Minister believed to produce too much pollution.
"My stomach is all churned up," said Kjell Magne Bondevik as he voted. On Monday evening the outgoing Prime Minister acknowledged his defeat declaring that he was "politically disappointed that the government had not received the mandate to continue."
The Labour Party, which is the main party of the future government but accustomed for decades to ruling alone, will have to create a government platform with its allies in the Centre Party and the Left Socialist Party, a task that will reveal some tension since the three parties do not share the same opinions on major subjects such as foreign policy or exploiting mineral resources. For example the Labour leader confirmed that Norway would remain a member of NATO and of the European Economic Area (EEA) whilst the Left Socialist Party would like the country to withdraw. In addition to this the social democrats are in favour of developing oil drilling along the Lofoten Islands that lie in Nordland whilst the Left Socialist Party is against this. "I shall argue in favour of Norway's membership of the European Union. I have done this several times and shall continue to do so," repeated Jens Stoltenberg during the campaign. "We have an historic opportunity to set Norway on a new course. We must have a negotiated solution that satisfies the three parties," maintained Kristin Halvorsen, president of the Left Socialist Party.
The change of government will not take place before 10th October next, since the autumn session of the Storting only starts on that date.
Around 12,500 people were also called to vote on 12th September to renew the Sámediggi (Sami Parliament). This has existed for the last sixteen years and has 43 members. A new term in office, the Finnmarksloven, will provide it with new powers in the near future. Until now 96% of Sami territory has been administrated by the Norway State. The new law plans for the transfer of a number of competences (notably with regard to water and farming policy over to a commission of six people, three emanating from the county council of the Sami Parliament).
The Sami Parliament has always been led by the National Association of Norwegian Samis (NSR). This year the Labour Party led by Egil Olli and the National Association of Norwegian Samis lie neck and neck in these elections. If Labour wins a "Norwegian" party will lead the Sámediggi for the very first time; however if the National Association of Norwegian Samis win, Aili Keskitalo would be the first woman to lead a Sami Parliament. Seventeen political parties were standing in these elections that took place in thirteen constituencies. Voters are Norwegians who have at least one grandparent whose mother tongue is Sami. Since there has never been an exact census Norway's Sami population is estimated between sixty and one hundred thousand people (mostly living in the Finnmark), around twenty thousand of them live in Sweden, six thousand in Finland and two thousand in Russia.
The results of the Sami Parliament elections are not expected for another ten days yet.
Results of Norwegian General Elections on 12th September 2005
Participation : 76,7 %
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