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POLITICS

Norwegian election: Which parties could hit the ‘sperregrense’ jackpot? 

What is 'sperregrense' and why could it have a massive impact on today's Norwegian election? Here's what you need to know.

Norwegian election: Which parties could hit the 'sperregrense' jackpot? 
A statue outside of Norwegian Parliament. Photo by Arbeiderpartiet/Flickr.

What is Sperregrense

Sperregrense is a votes threshold that the smaller parties in Norway aspire to hit in every election. The threshold is in place because Norway uses a proportional voting system, meaning seats are awarded proportionally to votes. Thus, a limit was implemented to prevent too many small parties from entering government. 

Parties that surpass four percent of total votes nationwide are rewarded with access to levelling seats that ensure parties that do well across Norway but do not win a lot of seats outright are fairly represented in parliament. 

READ MORE: The essential Norwegian words you need to know to understand the election 

If you want to read more coverage on the 2021 Norwegian election from the The Local then you can catch up on everything here.

Why is the threshold important? 

To understand why the threshold is essential, we’ll cast a glance at the 2017 election. In the last election, the Green Party received 3.24 percent of all votes and received one seat. In comparison, the Christian Democratic Party received just one percent more of the total vote and received eight seats. 

The levelling seats system isn’t just crucial for the smaller parties; it can have a massive impact on the bigger parties and decide which parties may or may not end up in government or whether a prospective government will have a parliamentary majority. 

What do the polls say about this years election? 

Below we’ve included a chart that used TV2/Kantar’s most up to date election data, as well as projections for how many seats parties could win and how this compares to the last election. 

What does this mean? 

Overall, it means a considerably more diverse parliament could be on the books, and smaller parties winning more votes and seats from their larger counterparts could have a massive say in this years election. 

For example, if the Red Party and the Green Party manage to outperform the polls and take even more votes from the main parties, they could swing the balance of the whole election. 

Currently, it is expected that a coalition government of the Labour Party, Centre Party and Socialist Left Party will be formed. However, should the Red Party and Green Party manage to outperform expectations and steal more votes and secure more seats through the levelling system from the other parties on the left, then they could force themselves into government. 

This is because current polls are only projecting a Labour, Centre Party, and Socialist Left coalition to secure the slimmest of majorities, meaning that their dreams of majority government hang in the balance and may be dependent on a push from the other parties. 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about Norway’s nine political parties before the election

As a result, the Labour Party, Centre Party and Socialist Left Party will hope the Green Party and the Red Party fall short of the threshold to secure a majority and avoid weeks of potentially messy negotiations. 

Labour leader Jonas Gahr Støre, will be hoping the Red and Green parties fall below the threshold to secure his dream coalition. Photo by Arbeiderpartiet/Flickr.

How could this affect the parties? 

Firstly, for the parties hovering around the threshold, reaching the threshold will make a massive difference to the power they will be able to wield in parliament.

For example, receiving just 0.9 percent more of the overall vote compared to the last election will bag the Green Party seven more seats. On the other hand, falling below the threshold could be equally catastrophic for others as the Christian Democratic Party stand to lose five seats in parliament if they fall short of the threshold.

Additionally, the performance of certain parties could signal a shift in the Norwegian political landscape and prove that voters interests are shifting towards issues like the environment. 

“I will cheer for any result as long as we are over the threshold. It is really exciting and confirms a trend,” Une Bastholm, leader of the Green Party, said to newspaper VG about the prospect of the green’s breaching the threshold. 

Leader of the Red Party, Bjørnar Moxnes, is also relishing the prospect of passing the threshold, and says that this could have a massive impact on policy and is fully aware of the sway the party would hold should the mooted coalition of Labour, the Centre Party and Socialist Left Party fail to secure a majority. 

“The Red Party above the limit can be crucial to secure a majority and new policies,” Moxnes told VG. 

The Liberal Party reaching the threshold could dent Erna Solberg’s fading chances of clinging on as Prime Minister as the Liberals winning equalising seats will likely prevent more Conservative MPs from being elected. On the other hand, the Liberal’s winning more seats could offer Solberg a lifeline and coalition partner in the event she pulls of a unlikely victory. 

How likely are the Red and Green parties to reach the threshold? 

Nobody will know until election day as polls are never entirely accurate, and the Green Party, for example, is only just above the threshold. Furthermore, polls are just a snapshot of what the country is thinking and doesn’t always reflect what voters will do on the day. 

“The parties must mobilise voters on election day, something they have not been good at in the past. They were both above the threshold in 2017 and then fell below it on election day,” political analyst, Thore Gaard Olaussen from Respons Analyze, said about the Green Party and Red Party to VG.

This is something Red Party Leader Moxnes has also admitted he is apprehensive about. 

“I am worried that those who say that they will vote for us do not do so when it actually comes to election day,” Moxnes told VG. 

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ENERGY

Air-con, ties and lights: How Europe plans to save energy and get through winter without blackouts

In the face of possible energy shortages due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, countries around Europe are taking action to cut their energy use and ensure that the lights remain on this winter. Here's a look at some of the rules and recommendations that governments are introducing.

Air-con, ties and lights: How Europe plans to save energy and get through winter without blackouts

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ensuing sanctions has seen energy prices soar, while the Russian leader is also threatening to cut off gas supplies to the west in retaliation for the sanctions.

All this means that countries around Europe face a difficult winter and the prospect of energy shortages – so many are already taking action to stockpile gas and cut energy usage.

Here’s a roundup of what actions are being taken. 

Germany

Heavily dependant on Russian gas, Germany is already feeling the effects of the energy squeeze, with many households and businesses turning down the thermostat or dimming the lights as gas storage facilities are being filled at a slower pace.

RulesEarly in July, Germany’s lower house of parliament or Bundestag passed a plan to turn off the hot water in its offices and keep the air temperature no higher than 20C in the winter. This limit is merely recommended for households.

However homeowners will not be allowed to heat private pools with gas “this winter”, according to government plans, while a regulation requiring minimum temperatures in rented homes is expected to be suspended “so that tenants who want to save energy and turn down the heating are allowed to do so”.

As well as national rules, many German cities have also adopted their own energy-savings plans.

The Bavarian city of Augsburg, for example, has turned off its fountains, dimmed the facades of public buildings at night and is debating switching off some under-used traffic lights – and a housing cooperative in Dresden made national headlines when it announced it would limit hot water to certain times of day.

With certain exceptions, public buildings in Berlin will not have heating from April to the end of September each year, with room temperatures limited to a maximum of 20C for the rest of the year. In areas such as warehouses, technical rooms, corridors, the maximum will range from 10 to 15C.

Private enterprise has been getting in on the act too – Vonovia, Germany’s largest property group, plans to limit the temperature in its 350,000 homes to a maximum of 17C at night.

The head of consumer chemicals group Henkel has said that work-from-home practices may be reintroduced, while chemicals giant BASF has raised the possibility of putting its employees on furlough.

Recommendations – Economy Minister Robert Habeck has made headlines for extolling the virtues of shorter, colder showers.

France

France has an ambitious plan to cut its energy usage by 10 percent within two years and a government plan for sobriété énergétique (energy sobriety) is expected by September.

In the meantime, some rules have already been put in place while there are also some official recommendations. The general principle is that changes will be obligatory for government buildings and businesses, but voluntary for private households. 

Rules – In 2013, a law obliging businesses to switch off outside lights by 1am came into force. That deadline may be brought forward and towns and villages may have to switch off streetlights earlier – some areas have already taken this decision.

Shops that have air conditioning may not leave their doors open, so that less energy is lost.

Limits have been suggested for heating and air conditioning – keep heating to a maximum of 19C and air con to a minimum of 26C at the height of summer. The Prime Minister says she ‘expects’ government buildings to show an example and adhere to these, but they are voluntary for households.

Meanwhile, the heads of large supermarket chains in France have made a voluntary agreement for all stores to employ energy-saving techniques, such as turning off electric signs at closing times, reducing light usage, and managing store temperatures, from October 15th this year. They will also cut lighting by half before opening time, and by 30 percent during “critical consumption periods”.

Additionally, they will “cut off air renewal at night” and “lower the temperature in outlets to 17C this autumn and winter, if requested by a regulatory authority”.

Recommendations – The government has urged individuals to adopt energy-saving practices – by switching off wifi routers when on holiday, turning off lights, unplugging electric appliances when not in use, and lowering the air-con.

France’s energy transition minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher has urged people to keep heating to a maximum of 19C and air con to a minimum of 26C at the height of summer.

Spain

Spain has introduced perhaps the most wide-ranging set of rules in its new energy-saving bill, which comes into force on August 10th.

Public buildings as well as shops, restaurants, cafés, supermarkets, transport hubs and cultural spaces must:

  • Set heating and cooling temperatures to limits of 19C and 27C respectively;
  • Install doors that automatically close by September 30th to prevent energy waste, as can happen with regular doors that are left open;
  • Lights in shop windows must be turned off by 10pm;
  • Posters must be put up to explain the energy saving measures in every building or establishment, and thermometers must be displayed to show the temperature and humidity of the room.

READ ALSO: Is it realistic for Spain to set the air con limit at 27C during summer?

Recommendations – the above rules do not apply to private homes, but it is recommended to follow the heating and cooling limits.

Meanwhile, working from home is recommended for large companies and public administration buildings to help “save on the displacement and thermal consumption of buildings”, Spain’s Minister for Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera said.

And have you thought about your outfit? Here’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez explaining why he’s ditching his tie to stay a little bit cooler.

Italy

Back in April the Italian government approved limits on the use of air conditioning in public offices and schools from May 1st, to save energy and wean itself off reliance on Russian gas imports.

At the time Ministers said that Italy would be able to end its reliance on Russian gas within 18 months, after previously giving a timeframe of at least two years.

Rules – In public buildings, energy use will be measured in individual rooms of each building – the temperature must not exceed 19C in winter and cannot be any lower than 27C in summer, with a margin of tolerance of two degrees – meaning the lowest allowed temperature is actually 25C.

Fines for non-compliance with the rules are said to range from €500 to €3,000. The measure does not currently apply to clinics, hospitals and nursing homes.

Italy has long had rules in place limiting the usage of heating in homes and public buildings during winter. Northern and mountainous areas are allowed to switch on the heat in October, while some parts of the south can’t turn up the dial until December.

Even then, there are limits on how long you’re allowed to keep the central heating on each day, ranging from six hours in the warmest parts of the country to 14 hours in chillier regions.

And there are rules on maximum temperatures – private homes, offices and schools should not be heated to more than 20C, with a 2C tolerance. Meanwhile factories and workshops should generally be kept at 18C.

Austria

The Austrian government has said it will work on measures to encourage energy saving among households and businesses while putting a cap on electricity prices.

The aim is to “support the Austrian population to ensure unaffordable energy supply for a certain basic need”, according to a government statement. 

The government didn’t give details on the price cap but said that conditions would be developed by the end of August.

Sweden

Sweden has announced no new measures in response to the energy crisis, but already has certain limits in place. 

Many Swedish apartment buildings and housing cooperatives have a strict maximum heating limit of 21C indoors and in some buildings radiators have a limiter on them so they cannot be turned too high.

In Denmark, too, the government has introduced no specific new measures.

Switzerland

In common with other countries, Switzerland is at risk of a gas shortage this winter and the government has warned that restrictions on consumption during the coldest months cannot be excluded.

Nearly half of its annual supply is of Russian origin. “We are not an island, so the war in Ukraine and the global energy crisis also affect Switzerland,” Energy Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said at the end of June. “In this context, there is no certainty about what awaits us.”

The possibility that Swiss households will have to turn down the thermostat this winter is very real. 

In the event of an actual shortage, “consumption restrictions may be ordered, for example restrictions on the heating of unoccupied buildings. The switching to biofuel could be imposed by ordinance”, Economy Minister Guy Parmelin has said.

If shortages persist, a quota system would be implemented – with households and essential services, such as hospitals, among the last to be affected.

But Parmelin insisted, “the role of the State is to guarantee a good supply of gas and electricity to the country. We want at all costs to avoid a disruption in supply, which would have a strong impact on businesses and  would then lead to an economic crisis”.

UK

Less reliant on Russian gas because of its own gas reserves, the UK is currently less worried about supply than price – soaring utility bills may force many households into poverty this winter, campaigners have warned.

Households in the UK will start receiving a discount worth a total £400 (€478) off their energy bills from October, the British government has said, with the support package rises to £1,200 (€1,430) for the poorest households.

A recent report by National Grid said there was little chance of the lights going out in the UK this winter – though experts have warned that a severe cold spell could prompt action, such as shutdowns of non-critical factory operations, to ensure homes can be heated.

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