Will Norway choose to be responsible?


in Economics, Politics, The environment

I have written before about Norway’s awkward tension between wanting to be a responsible global citizen and wanting to continue to sell oil.

Their ongoing election demonstrates the tension starkly. The Green Party, which may end up holding the balance of power in a divided legislature, opposes further hydrocarbon development. By contrast, a slogan of the dubiously named Progress Party is: “Trust us, we will bring up every drop”.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan September 12, 2017 at 12:01 am

It seems they are no better than Canadians:

Norway’s rightwing coalition claims victory in general election

. October 1, 2017 at 9:03 pm

The immigration minister, Sylvi Listhaug, had spiced up an otherwise dull campaign by travelling to Sweden and impugning its laxness towards migrants. Labour, traditionally Norway’s largest party, hoped her polarising rhetoric would turn voters away from the government, a minority coalition between the Conservatives and Progress. It also promised a 15bn kroner ($1.9bn) tax hike to redress inequality and shore up government finances. It was a poor campaign strategy. When the polls closed on September 11th Labour had got 27.4% of the vote, its second-worst result in 93 years. Erna Solberg, the prime minister, became the first right-wing leader to win re-election since the 1980s.

But from an international perspective, the most interesting story was that of the Progress Party, once a libertarian fringe group. When it joined the coalition many expected its support to collapse as it was forced to take responsibility for government policies. Instead its vote share fell only slightly, to 15.2% from 16.3% in 2013. Progress’s leader, Siv Jensen (pictured), serves as finance minister, and she shares political credit for Norway’s strong economy and for the government’s business-friendly tax cuts. The election cements the party’s role as a serious player. That holds lessons for anti-immigrant populists across Europe, and for other parties that need to deal with them.

“The Progressives are the most liberal and moderate populist party in Europe,” notes Kristin Clemet of Civita, a think-tank in Oslo. Their ideological roots differ from those of most other European right-wing populists. The Danish People’s Party, the Sweden Democrats, the Finns Party (once known as the True Finns), France’s National Front, Italy’s Northern League and the Dutch and Austrian Freedom Parties have always been primarily about national identity. They have concentrated on opposition to immigration and Islam, and on resistance to the European Union, which Norwegians voted to stay out of in 1994.

Its focus on libertarian economics means the Progress Party has never been ostracised as other populists have. That may have helped Norway to develop a healthier debate. The Sweden Democrats, who evolved out of neo-Nazi groups, have been shunned by every other party, silencing Sweden’s conversation on migration—and driving sceptics to the extreme right. Polls show they are now Sweden’s second-largest party, with some 20% of the vote. “Sweden didn’t take the cultural backlash seriously,” says Bard Larsen, of Civita. “We [Norwegians] are more open about it.”


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