The decline in support for Norway’s largest party is turning next month’s parliamentary election into a tight race that could see smaller and more extremist factions emerge as kingmakers.
Opposition Labor — Norway’s biggest political party since 1927 — is polling at 27.1 percent, the lowest since 2013, according to an NRK Norstat poll. If that level is confirmed in the Sept. 11 vote, it would be its worst result since 2001, jeopardizing its ability to form a workable majority with its traditional center-left allies.
Support for Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s Conservatives and their allies in government, meanwhile, has risen this year, buoyed by the economy’s emergence from the worst downturn for Norway’s bellwether oil industry in a generation.
With the gap between the center-left and center-right blocs narrowing, the formation of the next government may well be decided by those smaller parties that succeed in overcoming the 4 percent limit required to compete for so-called seats at large in parliament, chief among them the communist Red Party.
“Much depends on who falls above or below the voting threshold,” Tore Gaard Olaussen, head of Respons Analyse, a Bergen-based polling company, said in a telephone interview.
Whereas the Labor Party had been widely tipped to return to government after a four-year hiatus, its leadership’s decision to suggest it could ally with the centrist parties, rather than those on the traditional left, appears to have backfired.
And according to a recent TNS survey, the Red Party is polling at 4.7 percent and may end up flanking the more moderate Socialist Left as a potential Labor ally in parliament. Red had 1.8 percent in the Norstat survey.
“What I see in the numbers” is that the votes most in flux are those that belong on the left-wing of the Labor Party, Olaussen said.
The election campaign has been heating up in recent days, with parties across the political divide focusing on oil wealth spending, taxes and oil and gas explorations in the Arctic. Labor’s plan to raise taxes could also be hurting its appeal with more right-wing voters.
Harald Jacobsen, a Labor Party adviser, says he’s still confident of success, citing the performance of Jonas Gahr Store in Monday’s leaders’ debate, which effectively kickstarted the election campaign.
“We have an important task ahead of us to reach the voters with his message of prioritizing work, school, health and elderly care instead of billions of tax cuts for the richest,” Jacobsen said in an emailed response to questions.