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Parliamentary elections will be held in Norway on September 14, 2009. Early voting will be possible from August 10, 2009, while municipalities may choose to also hold open voting on September 13. Voters will elect 169 members for the Storting, which is elected for four years at a time.
Candidates will be elected on party lists in each of the 19 counties. The political parties will nominate candidates for these lists through autumn 2008 and the winter of 2009. The party lists must be registered by March 31, 2009.
Registered parties which at the last parliamentary election (in Norwegian parliamentary election, 2005) received more than 5000 votes nationwide, or 500 votes in a single county, are able to participate in the elections without special requirements.
These parties are the seven parties currently represented in parliament:
- Centre Party (Senterpartiet)
- Christian Democratic Party (Kristelig Folkeparti)
- Conservative Party (Høyre)
- Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet)
- Liberal Party (Venstre)
- Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet)
- Socialist Left Party (Sosialistisk Venstreparti)
in addition to the following parties, not currently represented in parliament:
- Christian Unity Party (Kristent samlingsparti)
- Coastal Party (Kystpartiet)
- The Democrats (Demokratene)
- Green Party (Miljøpartiet De Grønne)
- Pensioners Party (Pensjonistpartiet)
- Red (Rødt)
- Sami People's Party (Sámeálbmot bellodat/Samefolkets parti)
Other parties or groups wishing to participate in the election must collect 500 signatures in each county in which they wish to participate.
MPs not running for re-election
Several prominent MPs have stated that they will not be seeking another term in parliament in 2009. Among these are:
Former party leaders:
- Odd Einar Dørum (Liberal)
- Åslaug Haga (Centre)
- Thorbjørn Jagland (Labour, former Prime Minister)
- Jan Petersen (Conservative)
Former and present government ministers:
- Olav Akselsen (Labour)
- Karita Bekkemellem (Labour)
- Sylvia Brustad (Labour)
- Øystein Djupedal (Socialist Left)
- Reidar Sandal (Labour)
- Karl Eirik Schjøtt-Pedersen (Labour)
- Hill-Marta Solberg (Labour)
Central themes in the election
Several topics have been mentioned as central to the election. These include immigration, welfare, taxes, foreign policy and the healthcare.
Taxes and welfare
The Red-Green coalition was criticized by the opposition for not having effectively expanded and improved the infrastructure, schools and hospitals, and also criticized them for cutting the defence budget. The Red-Green government's increase of taxes on petrol and diesel, contributing to perceived high gas prices in Norway, was also criticized.
Also the . Between April 3 to April 14, 2009, Norwegian Minister of Development Cooperation Erik Solheim (SV) visited Zimbabwe to negotiate with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. This move became increasingly criticized by the Norwegian political opposition as well as in the international community as it only contributed to delay any decisive action against the suppression of the protesters. When the U.S.-led CODAMIZ coalition finally invaded Zimbabwe on April 15, 2009, the invasion was praised by the Progress Party and supported by the Conservative Party, while the Red-Green Coalition was in chaos. As the coalition partner Socialist Left Party condemned the United States for invading Zimbabwe, this was seen by the majority of the Norwegian people as a indirect support of Robert Mugabe's regime. As a result of SV's dissence in the case of participating in the CODAMIZ mission, the Labour Party had to refuse participation in the operation, a move criticized by the political opposition as well as members of the Concert of Democracis, including the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Denmark. Both the Progress Party and the Conservative Party criticized the Red-Green Coalition for internal conflict over the CODAMIZ invasion of Zimbabwe, and the Progress Party gave their full support to U.S. President George W. Bush and the Concert of Democracies (specifically referring to Secretary-General John McCain) in intervening in Zimbabwe, while they criticized Erik Solheim (SV) for being naive and standing on the side of Mugabe by condemning the U.S.-led operation. As the Mugabe regime was toppled within a month and the democratically elected Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai reinstated as Prime Minister, both the Labour Party and the Socialist Left Party in particular suffered in the opinion polls, while the Progress Party and the Conservatives made gains.
Healthcare and welfare
Climate change and energy production
Immigration was also a central theme in the election, especially surrounding the proposed expansion of the Racism Paragraph and the issue of Hijabs in the Police.
In January 2009 Centre Party leader Liv Signe Navarsete started the so called blasfemisaken, when she proposed changing the Norwegian penalty law by removing the old and almost dormant blasphemy paragraph (blasfemiparagrafen), but instead expand the so-called racism paragraph (rasismeparagrafen) to include "qualified attacks on religion or beliefs", with the goal of protecting the "different religions, and the individual's religious feelings." The proposition was supported by both Prime Minister Stoltenberg and Finance Minister and SV party leader Kristin Halvorsen, but faced criticism within their own parties.
The issue began to receive much media attention when an statement by Navarsete published by the Centre Party's communications chief Torvild Sveen saying that "I'm good with that we have won this case and forced Ap [Labour Party] to its knees" ("Jeg står godt med at vi har vunnet denne saken og tvunget Ap i kne.") was posted on the Centre Party's website. While the statement was quicky removed, it was too late to prevent the controversy from escalating. In the following days the intellectuals, the media, the opposition parties and members of the coalition parties alike criticized the proposed change of the hate parapraph.
On February 4, 2009 the chairwoman of the Centre Party, Liv Signe Navarsete, announced that they would withdraw the suggestion of the new addition to the Racism paragraph in the new penalty law due to be introduced in 2011. Despite the withdrawal, the Red-Green coalition parties (Labour Party, Socialist Left Party and in particular the Centre Party) dropped sharply in the opinion polls, and is now heading for a defeat in the next General Election due in September 2009.
On February 4, 2009 the Justice Department announced that the Police Directorate had decided that it will be permitted to wear hijab with the Norwegian police uniform. Police Director Ingelin Killengreen stated that the move is part of a desire to secure broad recruitment. The decision were to approved by the Minister of Justice, Knut Storberget, and was supported by the Labour Party, the Socialist Left Party, the Christian Democratic Party and the Liberal Party. However, the decision caused a political storm. The head of the Policemen's Union, Arne Johannessen, was surprised and disappointed by the decision, saying that "We have a police force which is supposed to symbolize neutrality while in uniform". This position was supported by the two opposition parties, the Progress Party and the Conservative Party, but as well as by Ola Borten Moe of the Centre Party, which was a member of Stoltenbergs red-green coalition. Storberget commented that there was broad bipartisan support for the proposal, and aligned Moe with the Progress Party. However, Over two thirds of the Norwegian population voiced their opposition to allowing hijabs in the police uniform, and the other coalition parties (Labour Party and Socialist Left Party) were split on this issue as well. Due to the fierce opposition Storberget withdrew his support from the issue, and proposed a new debate over the issue on February 10. Stoltenberg was open for allowing hijab in the police uniform, but asked Storberget to withdraw the decision following internal opposition, mainly from Minister of Health Bjarne Håkon Hanssen and state secretary Libe Rieber-Mohn. Hanssen's opposition was noticeable, as he had between 2005 and 2008 served as Minister of Labour and Social Inclusion, whose responsibilities include integration, immigration, asylum and ethnic minorities.
The storm did not calm, however, and on February 18 the government-owned public broadcasting company NRK reported that the announcement by the Justice Department of the permission of wearing hijab with the Norwegian police uniform was brought forward by the Labour Party politicians Astri Aas-Hansen and Hadia Tajik without Justice Minister Storberget's consent or knowledge. In response to this, the Progress Party and the Conservative Party have both stated that Storberget should consider resigning as Justice Minister for negligence in this matter. The government parties were split on the issue, which in turn resulted in growing support for the Progress Party, who opposed political and religious symbols in police uniforms.
By early 2008, Norwegian media was already speculating about possible outcomes to the election, and politicians were making statements about their preferred coalition partners. No single party has had a majority in the Norwegian parliament since 1961, and the largest party in the previous election won only 61 of the 169 seats. The overwhelming likelihood is therefore that the election will lead to the formation of a coalition government, a minority government, or both.
The prime minister, and leader of the Labour Party, Jens Stoltenberg, has stated that Labour will campaign for a renewed majority for the ruling coalition, the so-called Red-Green Coalition, consisting of Labour, the Socialist Left and the Centre Party. If these three parties win a majority in the election, the current government will therefore most likely continue in power.
If the ruling coalition loses its majority, the consequences are less clear. The coalition is unlikely to remain in power as a minority government. But the four non-socialist opposition parties currently in parliament, the Conservatives, the Liberals, the Christian Democrats and the Progress Party, do not form a united block.
The leader of the Liberal Party, Lars Sponheim, stated in September 2007 that the Liberal Party will not be a part of, or support, a coalition which includes the Progress Party, and that the Liberal Party prefers Labour's Jens Stoltenberg as prime minister, rather than the Progress Party leader, Siv Jensen. The Liberals would prefer to form a coalition with the Christian Democrats and the Conservatives.
The leader of the Christian Democrats, Dagfinn Høybråten, has also stated that his party will not be part of a coalition with the Progress Party, but has not ruled out supporting such a government.
The Progress Party leader, Siv Jensen, has stated that her party will not support a coalition government which it does not participate in, thus apparently ruling out a minority coalition of the Conservatives, the Liberals and the Christian Democrats, like the government of Kjell Magne Bondevik which was in office from 2001 to 2005. She has also stated that the Progress Party is willing to form a minority government alone, if it should win more seats in parliament than the other three non-socialist parties and also a government with Conservatives, Christian Democrats and Liberals.
The Conservative leader, Erna Solberg, has called on the other three opposition parties to take part in talks with the Conservatives on forming a non-socialist alternative to the ruling coalition. Solberg sees her party's role as a "bridge-builder" between the centrist Liberals and Christian Democrats and the right-wing Progress Party, since both the Liberals and Christian Democrats want to take part in a coalition with the Conservatives, as does the Progress Party.
The Labour Party may form a minority government on its own, if the ruling coalition should lose its parliamentary majority. The tabloid Verdens Gang claimed in March 2008 that this is considered a real possibility by the leadership of the party. The county mayor of Sør-Trøndelag county, Tore O. Sandvik, was quoted as supporting this option.
Average of polls
The following table gives the average of the nine main monthly opinion polls (Synovate, Opinion, Gallup, Sentio BT, Sentio DN, Norstat NRK, Norstat VL, Respons and Infact).
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