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Author Topic: Democracy, Norwegian flavored - National Election of 2017  (Read 373 times)

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Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Democracy, Norwegian flavored - National Election of 2017
« on: September 11, 2017, 12:06:25 PM »
Today, 11th September 2017, is the day of National Elections here in Norway. The voting ends four hours from now, minus whatever time I need to write this. I thought I'd use the occasion to offer a little insight on what a many-partied system looks like.

Norway is what I think is defined as a democratic parliamentary monarchy. The royals are mainly ornamental; the main governing political body is the 169-member"Storting" or Great Assembly which is like the American congress, except we have no Senate. Also we have a prime minister, not a president, and we don't technically vote that person in - the biggest party chooses their prime minister candidate ahead of election though so in reality we know very well who we are voting in. Whoever holds the majority of the Storting rules the country. Since the end of World War Two no single party has ever been able to hold a majority alone. We have had a few coalitions and many minority blocks. If we had had just two parties this could not have happened, but currently we have NINE main parties fighting in this election and I don't know if we have ever had less than five.

Norway is a small country with a small population; there's about 5 millions of us. Our coastline is full of fjords and is meter by meter as long as the entire European Atlantic coast. Fishing, farming, timber, mining and so on used to be our main assets. That changed in the sixties when we got magically lucky twice. The first luck was to find that we have massive gas and oil resources in the sea. The second luck was to manage to keep those new resources on state hands and use the income wisely, rather than sell it all for pocket change to the big oil companies. As a result we are now one of the richest countries in the world, and have a general living standard that many of us probably could not justify by our own efforts. School is free, healthcare is free, etc. I am mentioning this only to illustrate why politics in Norway are not so much a desperate struggle to keep the country afloat and to give priority to the greatest problems, as a struggle not to cause problems in one end by overspending in another. With a very much oil oriented industry - building and running rigs and ships and refineries and so on - we DO get problems when the international oil prices crash or skyrocket, but those problems are mostly job related. The last such bad hit was about four years ago, which will be relevant further down the page - I promise.

Since the end of World War Two the country has mostly been governed by the Workers Party - socialists of course - with the help of either smaller left wing parties or by the help of the Center Party, who is very much a rural/farmer's Party. The opposition has been the right wing and liberal parties. The last four years however the government has been in the hands of the right wingers; it is the first time ever they manage to stay in power the whole four year termin. I am using 'left wing' and 'right wing' with some caution here; the Norwegian concept of Right and Left does not fully correspond with any other country I can think of. For instance our previous left wing prime minister is now the Secretary of NATO, and what used to be the most rabid far right wing party has had the Finance Minister for the last four years.

During the last four years, the blow from the latest oil crack was absorbed and eventually countered, especially the last half year where a lot of financial curves have climbed steadily. This to the shock and dismay of the opposition which had based its entire campaign on how the country has been run into the ground the last four years. Another threat was the sharp rise of refugees coming to Europe, of which surprisingly many wear able to pass through the entire Europe to end up on the doorstep of the highest-income, highest-benefits country in the world. During the previous election four years ago this was a big issue and the lefties were opening the doors tall and wide with seemingly little restraint, while the righties were rather less enthusiastic about the concept. Many eyes have been on Sweden, whose unrestrained refugee policies have had a considerable effect on finances, demographics and crime. I am fairly certain this was key to the right wing coming into power for the first time in decades.

Here are the nine parties vying for power, ordered by size. I'll spare you from the party programs. Ranking gets iffy in the low end for obvious reasons.

Workers Party
This is the big socialist party. It started out like its international siblings a hundred years ago, fighting for workers rights and other big social issues. While certainly responsible and intelligent, and multiculturally inclusive and every other Politically Correct term you can think of, they also have an authoritarian streak: the Party knows what is good for you and they will make sure there are no other options. And good luck finding an actual worker in the upper end of the party; the current top candidate is a Paris-educated millionaire and diplomat.They are not only the biggest party with the biggest election staff and the biggest youth party, but are also the recipients of so much funding from the national trade unions that this cycle, their election budget is TEN TIMES as much as the other parties combined. On the negative side they missed the mark by attacking a regression that is already gone, and are losing voters both to the right wing and to the far left fringe. They could still end up winning this election, because big money matters.

Right (that's the literal name)
This is the big right wing party. In pragmatic politics they are quite close to the Workers Party. Having had government control the last four years have been somewhat rocky; partly because steering four parties toward a common goal is not unlike herding cats. I for one did not think it could last the full period. Their politics are, just like the Workers Party, not so much visionary as determined to stay in power. The current prime minister is theirs, and the most special thing beyond cat juggling skills is the fact that she is a woman. She's only the second Norwegian female prime minister ever.

Progress Party
This is the far right party. For decades these were rated lower than dung on the Norwegian political scale, not least because of a leader that Trump could have modeled himself on. His time is long gone however, and the new leadership have proven that yes, you can be a skilled politician and have the style of a truck driver at the same time. This leader too is a woman, and she holds the Finance Minister chair. The Progress Party are probably the most xenophobic of the lot, championing strict refugee policies and focusing on islamic terror issues. It's not a tasteful party really, but style is one thing. In reality, many of the other parties are supporting and voting for the measures put forth.

Center Party
These guys used to call themselves the Farmer Party, which was a more honest name - these guys are all about farming and rural interests. Their big winner cause the last years have been that they want to shoot every last wolf in our nature; there's about 60 of them.... 60. Not 60 thousand. So they are against EU, against any trade treaty that affects farmers incomes, against merging anything, and for moving jobs from the cities and out rural as for a possible. I'll give them that, they are consequent. They are centrist in that they will do horse trade deals with any party or block regardless of how it affects anything or anyone else. We HAVE been merging counties and states a lot over the last decades, so they get enough support to get what they want. One thing is certain. Norwegian farmers are the richest on the planet compared to the size and output of the farms.

Socialist Left
These guys are to the left of the Workers Party. Urban, educated, a magnet for students, pretty cool bunch. They also feel less involved with finance and economy and go for big name causes like 'lets make this or that illegal'. More Politically Correct than even the Workers Party. Also the front green party. But even people who really enjoy waving banners need to go to work eventually. Looks like they will make it to the Storting this election, but it was not a given until recently.

Left
This is Norways oldest political party, and used to be drawing intellectuals and socialists. Teachers, government workers and so on were big on them. Eventually the socialists split off to make a party of their own. They are still more firebrandish than many other parties but since they have chosen with the right wing side, they are a somewhat incongruous entity.

Christian People's Party
This little party actually had the prime minister once, managing thereby to make us the only nation to have a prime minister who was also an ordained priest. Didn't work out well. But this is still very much the party of preaching and church communities. Very Politically Correct, and in the past the chief opposing force to gay rights, female rights, the separation of church and state, you can guess the rest. The average voter here is getting quite old and this year they may or may not get any seats. They have however been part of the current right wing government.

The Environmental Green Party
This is a newcomer, and managed somehow to corner the green issues this election. Earns probably more votes on the current disgust with the Workers Party than anything else. They certainly are green, in every definition of the word - want only electric cars and to dismantle the entire oil industry within 20 years and legalize drugs and... and they might end up in the seesaw position this time around, giving them power. I am both fascinated and horrified with the idea.

Red
Forget socialism. These guys are good old fashion communism. A couple of decades ago they were advocating violent takeover of the country; now they are quoting Marx while sitting in leisure suits in cafes drinking mocca latte.


What else is worth mentioning? We have no voting machines. Every voter must show up with ID and voting call papers in hand, enter a cubicle and chose one of about 20 voting lists to put in a box. Afterwards they are counted; the last few elections machines have been doing the counting but this year a student manage to spear the chief election manager on prime time TV regarding the safety of the counting machines and it was decided, just one week before the election, that every last vote will also be hand counted. Security was already high level and it is higher now.

Two hours left of voting... we'll probably not have a decision until tomorrow. I am quite excited to be honest; a thousand votes nationwide could be enough to keep or change the governing. Not saying what I voted for - which I did a month ago, I love the early voting option - but I WILL be crossing my fingers.

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Re: Democracy, Norwegian flavored - National Election of 2017
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2017, 03:05:01 PM »
Yeah, judging from our experience across the border mountains, in neighbouring Sweden, I'd say I really hope the Greens don't end up in a seesaw position; actually I hope they'll stay below the 4% level, without any seats. The Sweeish governement over the last three years has included the greens, it's their first term ever in a cabinet (though the party has had seats in the Swedish parliament for thirty years) and they have been a millstone for the government: ill organized, unable to stick to agreements they have reached with other parties, sometimes sloppy in the way they've handled facts and candidate screenings. They have acted like a bunch of starry-eyed student protesters who were suddenly turned into ministers, even though their top politicians are in their late 30s and 40s. Definitely not a party who were fit to govern, but for tactical reasons they are still part of the Labour-led government. I hope that might end next year.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Democracy, Norwegian flavored - National Election of 2017
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2017, 04:09:56 AM »
Woah. That got every bit as exciting as it promised. The end result is that the governing right wing managed to get reelected, with 90 votes against the 79 of the opposition. As last as yesterday before the first votes got in, the right wing had been given only 15% chance of managing to win, and and the numbers kept dancing up and down all evening, at times giving the lefties an 85-84 lead. No, I would not have been willing to bet money on this result three months ago.

This is the first time the right wing side has managed to sit a whole four year term, and won an election after sitting a full term. All the four right wing parties lost a few voters, mind you. Both the two, Right and Progress Party, who are the official governing faction, and Left and Christians People Party who have been formally supporting them both only barely managed to stay above the minimum limits. Once the euphoria of winning has worn out there's going to be tough negotiations ahead and what the four can't support together the other parties will barge into to ruin or exploit with the delicate touch of an elephant in a glass magazine.

The five opposing parties should not be too shocked at losing though, and may even quietly be a little relieved. It was clear from the start that most of them had little love for each other's policies; the Workers Party loudly exclaimed that they were going to change everything the governing block has done the last four years even though the WP have vote FOR many those measures themselves, and the far left parties loudly exclaimed that they were going to overturn everything the Workers Party was working for. Eventually the socialist block will be back in power some day, but not while THIS is the best cooperation they can promise.

The election went without security breaches. The only mishap was that our second biggest city got a little delayed in delivering their results because their roads are being asphalted ahead of an upcoming bicycle grand prix. Amusing, but not important.

Again I won't be boring you with numbers and percentages for each party, but will rank them roughly by size.

Workers Party
A slow motion car crash. All their union funding could not help the fact that they have not been effective in opposition, missed the target plate completely with their main attack on a recession that is no longer there, have a leader with the combined style and charm of Uncle Scrooge and Gargamel, and that they have completely ignored the environmental issues. It's the second worst election for them since World War Two, and the first time they lose two elections in a row. They have bled votes to all other parties but mostly to the benefit of the far left and the Center Party.  The Workers Party may have lost only 10% of their voter percentage from the last election but that one was epically bad for them too. The in-party aftermath is going to be bloody. They are still Norway's biggest party but only by a percent or two.

Right
As the biggest party in the right wing block, these guys have probably been celebrating all right, if in a polite way. Also because after four years of herding cats, the Right have only lost maybe 5% of their voters - in Norway, the opposition usually gains votes and the governing parties lose and often a lot of votes in the next election. Their leader has been more popular than the party these four years, and more importantly she has been respected even by the opposition.

Progress Party
Also loses a few votes, but has largely gotten unscathed through the election. Being the second largest party in a government tends to be a disaster in the next election because they have had to adhere to the larger one's policies, but this far right party has managed to avoid that. Partly because the Right prime minister has let them have real power over their own key policies, partly because the refugee threats and islamic terror threats are still active and real, and partly because they have been drawing new votes from the religious communities. These are still not going to be the nice guys in the government, but they clearly have been the Bad Cops to the Right's Good Cops. Apparently, some times that work.

Center Party
During the last four years these farmers' representatives have been the loudest and most effective opposition to the government, and judging by yesterday's results they have scored very well on that, doubling their percentage and doubling their Storting seats. Having primarily their voters in the most rural parts of the country, they have taken most of their new voters from the Workers Party who have long had a strong presence there. It will be interesting to see how they will use the new power. Because last night at the post-election speech, their leader - who had embraced the Workers Party the entire election with the intent of becoming their primary supporting party - declared that from now on he was going to pursue whatever case-to-case coalitions that was going to further their cause. And didn't even mention the failed opposition block once. The country's best horse traders are going right back into the barrio.

Socialist Left
Before the election, their big challenge was to get above the minimum-limit of 4% of the votes, which in Norway decides whether you get just a token seat or a handful. Of the socialist parties, these were the only ones managing par for the course and a little more, which by comparison makes them the most successful of the lefties.

Left
The liberal socialists knew they were in deep shit; they have been the greatest spoke in the government's wheels and the opposition have cost them many voters. At one point it looked like they would have to leave the Storting entirely. It would also have ended the government's majority. In the end a number of Right voters voted tactically for them and Left scraped above the vital limit. Barely.

Christian People's Party
This has always been a cuddly, family-oriented and above everything else conservatively christian party that once was one of the biggest. Their share of the votes have dwindled with modern times, losing both people who think they are too tolerant and to people to think they are too intolerant. On gay issues in particularly. But also they have gotten very unexpected competition from the far right Progress Party who somehow has produced an iron fisted minister with a clear christian leaning and an aggressive attitude toward islamistic hate ideology. She is a blonde pitbull, and the Christian People's Party has no one anywhere NEAR that. Meek, mild, gentle and understanding are ways that produces cuddly cocker spaniel puppies, not fighter pitbulls. And when your backyard becomes dangerous to walk in, you want the latter. So when the Progress Party have barked and sneered at real and imaginary threats, the Christians have been waving a newspaper and saying sternly Bad Doggie. Beside the Workers Party, the Christians are the biggest losers in this election and like the Left, they only barely scraped above the minimum line.

Reds
The commies had no seats before this election and they gained one. It won't be enough to make any of all that difference they were promising.

Environmental Green Party
They had one seat before, and still have one after. Like the Reds, they have no chance whatsoever of being in the middle of the seesaw and deciding outcomes.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2017, 04:11:56 AM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Democracy, Norwegian flavored - National Election of 2017
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2017, 04:43:36 AM »
Yeah, judging from our experience across the border mountains, in neighbouring Sweden, I'd say I really hope the Greens don't end up in a seesaw position; actually I hope they'll stay below the 4% level, without any seats. The Sweeish governement over the last three years has included the greens, it's their first term ever in a cabinet (though the party has had seats in the Swedish parliament for thirty years) and they have been a millstone for the government: ill organized, unable to stick to agreements they have reached with other parties, sometimes sloppy in the way they've handled facts and candidate screenings. They have acted like a bunch of starry-eyed student protesters who were suddenly turned into ministers, even though their top politicians are in their late 30s and 40s. Definitely not a party who were fit to govern, but for tactical reasons they are still part of the Labour-led government. I hope that might end next year.

I am actually supporting the concept of green parties, as such. The world needs more focus on the environment. The trouble with these one-horse caravans is that they tend to attract people with more enthusiasm than constructiveness. Or realism. Or calculators. It does not matter if they are advocating non-polluting energy sources if their biggest goal is to immediately ban stuff that will put a third of the population out of work.

We here in Norway always keep our eyes on Sweden; you guys are our closest and dearest neighbors after all. For two countries so similar in so many ways, our politics in many areas might as well be on opposite sides of the planet. If anything it is instructive to watch how making the opposite choices affects the societies. I do look forward to watching your next election.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Democracy, Norwegian flavored - National Election of 2017
« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2017, 10:26:27 AM »
It's just 11 days since the election. Since then, nothing BIG has happened, but there are lots of SMALLS.

The big picture is that the four right wing parties are negotiating. I could have waited until the negotiations ended to post again, but the indications are that this could go on for maybe months. There is certainly no hurry for the Right and the Progress Party since they are already governing and are not in great danger of being toppled at this point. And the National Budget for 2018 was already finished before the election. For the Left party and the Christian party the situation is a bit less pleasant; they went into the election on a bid to oust the far right wing Progress Party from the government and replace it with themselves - but the voters made the Progress party one and a half time as big as those other parties combined. So, reality check? They have already pledged not to create a toppling. The real issue for those small parties is that some of their politicians and voters really do hate the guts of the Progress Party, while others can work with them just fine. So after losing almost half their voters in one single election, the top leaders are treading carefully to not lose the other half as well.

With the right wing parties smoking peace pipes and looking ahead, the left wingers have been left in a lull. Some of the smaller lefties have not been heard of since the election, and it is understandable - they have no relevance in the current situation so the press have lost interest, and all their funds were spent during the election. The Center Party is definitely still relevant but are probably staying low until the next farming/rural issue pops up. Also it is autumn so many of their people are probably either farming and hunting the next month.

The most interesting show is with the Workers Party, the socialists. As predicted their enormous losses during the election has led to direct and indirect pressure on the current leader. But the real blood is dripping in the musical chair game over committee position like the Finance committee. This is where the opposition battles with the governing parties over funding and budgets will happen. The latest drama here is that the current WP committee leader, a woman with considerable finance education, has been kicked out of a chair by one of the more aggressive second-in-commands in the party. The position is so key that the next step could we be the party leader position itself. So far several of the old leader's advisors have resigned, leaving the next leader with zero background knowledge, and several of the other second-in-commands have actively fought the leader change - including the guy most backed by the trade unions. Combined with other unfortunate incidents for the Workers Party since the election it is actually possible that their next prognosis numbers will plummet further. How the might has fallen.