politics is to want something

onsdag, september 14, 2005

norway back on track...

In Monday’s Norwegian election, a coalition of three left-leaning parties captured a majority. The Labour Party, along with the Socialist Left and the agrarian-ecologist Center Party will form a new government, ending four years of conservative minority rule. This is a good thing in itself, but the victory was sweetened by the entry into parliament of 7 under-thirty-year-old activists from the Norewgian Labour Youth (AUF), the youth affiliate of Norway’s largest political party, Labour. They will join a handful of under-40 young Labour parliamentarians. Some of them are old friends of mine from when I worked for AUF a couple of years ago, including my old bosses, Anette Trettebergstuen and Eva Kristin Hansen, above.

Norwegian politics has been in flux as the once-dominant Labour Party has steadily contracted its base. Still the largest party, Labour has been forced in the past few decades to share power informally, forming a series of minority governments. This will be the first time that they will share power directly with the Socialist Left (SV), a party which split from Labour in the 1950’s over differences in foreign and defense policy. SV has itself transformed into a traditional left social democratic party, with strong support among intellectuals, students and some of the middle class. The Center Party (SP) will also join the government. Once a purely rural-based party, SP has emerged as a strong voice for local autonomy and the environment. In the absence of a strong Green Party, the Center has positioned itself as the center-left voice in Norwegian politics. Their sister parties elsewhere in Scandinavia tend to ally more consistently with the right-wing.

The perhaps inevitable collapse of the fracturous Norwegian right is cause for celebration. The previous government, led by the Christian Democrats, included the free-market-obsessed Conservatives and a small liberal party. It was dependent on support from a large, populist far-right party, paradoxically known as the “Progress Party”. Mixing subtle xenophobia with anti-tax, anti-regulation and pro-welfare rhetoric, the Progress Party has created a dangerous, and successful populist space which has eroded traditional Labour support. Norway’s vast oil wealth creates the possibility of a political line that calls for massive tax cuts AND increases in welfare expenditure, but only for “real” Norwegians. Because the other right-wing parties divide the non-socialist vote amongst themselves, only a center-left coalition is stable enough to govern without the help of the Progress Party.

It is nice to follow politics in a country where “solidarity” is an election slogan, and right-wing policies are derided because they are “anti-social”. Politics across the world has been pushed to the right by the Reagan-Thatcher revolution, but in the Nordic countries, there persists a strong and vibrant left streak in mainstream political life.

Congratulations to my friends in the Norwegian labor movement, special congrats to all my old drinkin’ buddies who made it (and those who didn’t make it :) ) into parliament. Your victory just goes to prove what I have always suspected- if you want to win an election, make sure I am nowhere near your country.


Blogger Peter Gustavsson said...

Really great description of Norwegian politics, Daraka.

But hey, we won the Swedish election in 2002! And you made a success in the schools!

Hope to see you IRL sometime, comrade!

mandag, september 19, 2005 7:07:00 a.m.

Blogger daraka kenric said...

I'm coming to Sweden in November, fool!

Get ready to lose the election!


mandag, september 19, 2005 11:07:00 p.m.

Blogger gkurtz said...

Hey Daraka,

Great blog.

How much does it matter that Norway's left government will be what the French call a "plural left" coalition? This is a new thing for Norway, right?

This strikes me as more than a minor detail, since the rise of green and post-communist parties is one of the big stories in Euro left politics in the past decade or so.


tirsdag, september 20, 2005 8:55:00 a.m.


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