EXPLAINED: How right-wing is Norway?
Politics in Europe appears to be trending towards the right, with right-wing and far-right parties performing well in recent elections in Sweden and Italy. So, how much of a right-wing presence is there in Norway?
Across Europe, recent election results have shown a trend towards the right. In Italy, election winner Giorgia Meloni of the far-right Brothers of Italy party is set to become the new PM, while in Sweden, the anti-immigration Swedish Democrats will form part of a right-wing government there.
Norway appears to be one of the exceptions to this recent trend. In last year’s election, the centre-right government was ousted in favour of a minority coalition of the Labour Party and Centre Party, with the new regime relying on budgetary and parliamentary support from the Socialist Left Party.
So, where does the country lie politically? Professor Knut Heidar, Professor Emeritus at the Department of Political Science at the University of Oslo, said that Norway could be placed moderately to the left of the political spectrum when compared to the rest of northern Europe.
“(There is a) broad agreement among the parties about redistribution (of wealth) and an active welfare state. Also, the far-right Progress Party argues for broader state welfare provisions for ‘ordinary people. At the same time, (there is) a broad consensus on providing good opportunities for private enterprise, although (there are) disagreements (between the parties) on taxes,” he explained to The Local. He added that Norway’s political leaning as a country was typical of Scandinavia as a whole.
Historically, the Labour Party has been Norway's biggest and most popular political party, with the Conservatives, the country's largest right-wing party, winning the 2nd or 3rd most seats in parliamentary elections.
However, Norway is not too far removed from eight years of centre-right government, which included the Progress Party (FRP) for over six of those years.
The presence of the far-right party in governemnt has had the effect of normalising the populist party as one which could be seen as being part of government- not just in opposition, according to Heidar.
When asked what impact the Progress Party had while in government, Heidar said: “(It was) small in the overall picture, but they won some symbolic victories. More importantly, (they) moved public debate onto issues that previously had been ‘no-go’ areas.”
Eventually, though, governmental fatigue would set in for both the Progress Party and Conservative Party and their popularity dipped by the time the 2021 election rolled around. The Conservatives and Progress Party ended up being the two biggest losers on election night, losing nine and six seats respectively.
The Progress Party would leave governemnt more than a year before the election though. It walked out of government over Norway's decision to allow a woman linked with the Islamic State terror group back into the country on humanitarian grounds.
What draws voters in Norway to the right?
Heidar explained that voters of the Conservative Party are typically drawn to its policies on tax and competition between the public and private sector for public services such as health, social services and education.
The political scientist explained that voters of the Progress Party are most concerned with immigration, slashing government red tape, and cutting taxes.
In this regard, Heidar explained, the Progress Party is similar to other right-wing parties in Scandinavia but that it was less extreme than populist parties in Denmark and Sweden. He added that there was one aspect in which the Progress Party outperformed other parties on the far-right.
“(They are) also much better in building party organisation and educating their politicians, some of which were much more liberal (in a European sense) than populist,” he said.
What about the long-term?
The shift from a centre-right to a centre-left government is unlikely to represent a shift in the paradigm or indicate a longer-term trend towards the left.
Instead, it may simply represent a continuation of the politics and policies that have come before, according to Heidar.
“No”, the professor said when asked if there was any evidence that Norway could shift further to the right or the left in the longer term. He added that due to serious challenges internationally, the country would likely favour stability over sweeping changes.
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