The comments by Solberg were published by the Dagbladet newspaper on August 11th in response to a neo-Nazi demonstration in Kristiansand – not to last weekend’s events in Charlottesville, USA in which a woman was killed by a far right demonstrator.
US President Donald Trump was widely criticised by both Democrats and members of the Republican party for seeking to draw a parallel between Nazi demonstrators in Charlottesville and left wing counter protesters including the Antifa group.
Taken in the overall context of the Dagbladet article, Solberg’s comments are intended to support her position that the government would fight all kinds of extremism.
“Right wing extremists and neo-Nazis have a lot in common with the extreme left or religious extremism. They seek to whip up hate, division and conflict within Norwegian society,” Solberg wrote.
The comments have been strongly criticised by some of Norway’s left-wing politicians.
Snorre Valen of the Socialist Left Party (Sosialistisk Venstreparti) called Solberg’s comments “completely irresponsible and amateur” in a post on Twitter.
The PM should condemn Nazism clearly, Valen wrote.
“When uniformed Nazis are marching in our streets, Norwegian Jews and gay people are *actually* threatened. This is not an academic debate,” the MP wrote.
Når uniformerte nazister marsjerer i gatene våre, er norske jøder og skeive *reelt* truet. Dette er ikke en akademisk debatt.— (((Snorre Valen))) (@snorrevalen) August 16, 2017
Valen cited the response by Republicans to Trump’s statements on the US extreme right in his criticism of Solberg.
“We need you to say ‘we’ve fought Nazism before and we’ll fight it again’, not weak distractions like ‘the others are also bad’," he wrote.
In a tweet posted in response to Valen, Solberg cited violence by protesters at July’s G20 summit in Hamburg as an example of left wing extremism.
She also wrote that her comments were not intended to draw equivalence between the left wing and neo-Nazis.
“Read the entire article! The far left means left wing extremists here. PST [Norway’s Police Security Service, ed.] monitors all types of extremists,” she wrote.
Ikke relativisering, les hele artikkelen! Ytre venstre må her forstås som v-ekstreme. PST følger alle tre typer ekstreme, som da SV styrte.— Erna Solberg (@erna_solberg) August 16, 2017
Bjørnar Moxnes, leader of the far-left Red Party, which does not hold any seats in parliament, said Solberg should apologise for her comments.
“This is bringing Trump rhetoric into the Norwegian election campaign. Being extreme against racism is not the same as wanting to wipe out minorities. I think it is harsh, provocative and disappointing that Solberg makes this kind of comparison,” Moxnes told NRK.
“It should be quite easy to condemn terror by neo-Nazis and jihadists without bringing up us on the far left,” he added.
The Red leader said that his party “naturally rejects terror of any kind”.
Solberg’s Høyre (Conservative) party colleague Henrik Asheim called the parallels drawn by the opposition parties a “nadir”.
“It’s disappointing that otherwise sincere politicians such as Snorre Valen are bringing themselves down to this level in the election campaign. It is completely uncontroversial to point out common characteristics between right wing extremists and left wing radicals in this context,” he said to NRK.
“I think that the Red Party, the Socialist Left and voters can all see that it is weak to compare Erna Solberg, who is running an election campaign from Bergen, with Donald Trump in the USA,” he added.