The 2005 Norwegian Elections Guide for DummiesWe have national elections here a week from now, so I thought I would make a couple of posts about this topic. For Americans, who are used to two major parties dominating the political scenes (although smaller ones do exist), following Scandinavian politics can be rather confusing. In Norway, the two largest parties, Labour and the right-wing Progress Party, combined make up little more than 50% of the votes. Even in Britain, this number would be about 75% for Labour and the Tories. I used to think that our myriad of parties made our system "more democratic", but I'm starting to suspect that it only creates chaos and potentially gives disproportionate influence to minor parties and special interest groups. We've had minority governments for most of the past 40 years. Sweden and Denmark, too, have minority governments, who need agreements with other parties to gain the backing of a majority of MPs. As this year's elections could become a very close call between the leftist block and the centre-right block in Norway, we could get a situation where tiny parties with only one or two MPs can decide which government we will get. This could be our Communist Party (RV), the rural Kystpartiet or Demokratene, a splinter group from the Progress Party.
Blogger Oslo Girl is definitely more left-leaning than me. I will vote for the Progress Party myself. Carl I. Hagen is not a pig, he is one of the very few sensible political leaders we have. If anything, the PP is too soft and appeasing towards the rather weak centre-right government we have, but there are few better alternatives out there to vote for:
The 2005 Norwegian Elections Guide for Dummies, part 1
There are seven parties worth knowing about. None of these has enough support to rule the land on its own, so they have to cooperate and form coalitions in order to gain a majority of the votes.
The Progress Party is a right-wing populist party that thinks Norway would be a hell of a lot better place to be if only we would close our borders and put an end to immigration aka the root of all evil. They would also like to reduce taxes, lower gas prices and spend more oil money. Their leader, Carl I. Hagen, has often been caricaturized as a pig, and among many of the first, second and third generation immigrants I used to teach at Hersleb Junior High on the east side of Oslo, his name is synonomous with ass-hole and shit-bag.
The Consevative Party of Norway can be summed up as, well, conservative. One might even say boring. They are for a freer market in Norway than exists today, with increased competition in the private and public sector and reduced taxes. They are against dipping into the oil funds, preferring to save them for a rainy day sometime in the distant future and rather focusing on sound economic policies that will encourage sound economic growth soundly. Their leader, Erna Solberg, has also been caricaturized as a pig. More specifically, as a female pig being screwed by another pig bearing the likeness of Carl I. Hagen, a caricature which caused a lot of furor.
The Christian Democratic Party of Norway is for Christ and Democracy. They seem to be against a lot of stuff, like homosexual unions, alcohol and smoking. They are led by a priest named Kjell Magne Bondevik who has been Norway's Prime Minister for the past four years and who is, despite his nice demeanor, wildly unpopular. One of his pet platforms is the irradication of all forms of bullying. For some reason, he reminds me a little bit of Ned Flanders.
The Liberal Party is the oldest political party in Norway. Although most its members disagree about their stances on most of the major issues, they all agree that The Liberal Party is the absolute best party in all of Norway. They are for better schools, preserving the environment, opening the borders to more immigration, opening the market to more competition and everything else that is good. Come to think of it, The Liberal Party really is the best party in all of Norway. It baffles me that 98% of Norway's population doesn't realize this. Their leader, Lars Sponheim, is totally radical, man.
Norway's Labour Party is also for all things good, except they want to achieve all things good through higher taxes and increased government control. Workers Unite! is their motto. No wait, I think that I may be mixing them up with LO, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions. Easy mistake since the two have such a tight bond. Anyway, the Labour leader, Jens Stoltenberg, is a pretty man. He has been accused of liking to flirt, to which he pleads guilty as charged.
The Socialist Left Party is yet another party fighting for all things good, this time aka socialism. They would like to put an end to all poverty and provide all students with cell phones. They would also like to abolish the black market. It seems that many of them think that Bush is the root of all terror. It also seems that they would like to put an end, once and for all, to the rumor that there is a difference between the sexes. Their leader is Kristin Halvorsen and she recently said some mean things about Norway's Health Minister Dagfinn Høybråten, subsequently hurting his feelings.
The Center Party used to be called the Farmer Party and has to do with all things agrarian. They attract a lot of farmers. That's all I know and I just learned about it by reading it on the Wikipedia page I linked to.
Analysis: Norway's luxury election
How do you unseat the leader of a country that tops the United Nations' "best country to live in" league table for the fifth consecutive year? With less than a fortnight until Norwegians vote in a general election, the oil-rich country's leftist opposition -- which has a comfortable lead in the polls -- appears to have found the answer: focus on the future, but don't neglect the present. "This is a strange election," says Kjetil Wiedswang, the Brussels correspondent for Norwegian business daily Dagens Naringslivet. "Norway is the only country in the world whose problem is that it has too much money." This may seem like a cruel joke to the 176 countries ranked below Norway in the U.N. annual human development index, but in Oslo "what shall we do with all this money, today, tomorrow, the rest of our lives," is not a line from a roaring '20s novel, but the central question facing politicians ahead of the Sept. 12 poll.
While most European countries fret over ballooning national debts, Norwegians worry about how to spend the $38 billion the Nordic country generates annually from its black gold deposits and how to maintain their whopping $186 billion "fund for future generations." "As long as we have a visible oil fund it's a problem to get re-elected in Norway. People always want to spend more," Finance Minister Per-Kristian Foss said at a news conference in Oslo Aug. 30. "In Norwegian elections, you're first and foremost faced with expectations of more spending on everything." While good news for Norway's slush fund, record high oil prices present something of a Catch-22 situation for Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik's center-right government. If the Christian Democrat banks the money, he gets accused by opposition parties of neglecting the poor and the elderly and being parsimonious with taxpayers' cash. But if he boosts government spending, he is accused of jeopardizing the welfare of future generations, who will have to have to find creative ways of maintaining their lifestyles when Norway's oil runs out.