Norway 2009: Analysis

Since it’s a country with which I’m fairly well versed politically, I’ve decided to do a little sociological, geographic and run-of-the-mill pundit analysis of the Norwegian election. Results and the like are posted here.

The results were quite predictable, though the Red-Green narrow majority was a bit of a surprise – though when analyzing further, they can thank the Liberals for their majority. Labour’s vote increase is a reflection of the personal popularity of Jens Stoltenberg, who seems to be more popular than his coalition government. Progress was likely hurt a bit by the resurgent Conservatives, who slowly increased their ratings in polls over the last days of the campaign. It seems as if the Conservatives also took some votes from smaller centrist parties, notably the Liberals who fell short of the 4% threshold for the additional seats. If the Liberals had broken 4%, which they almost did btw, they would have won 8 seats and Red-Green wouldn’t have had its majority mandate.

The result is certainly quite deceiving for Siv Jensen and Progress, who undoubtedly wanted to have a bit more seats than this after the good ratings the polls gave the party for most of its campaign. Still, it’s the party’s best election result to date, but such a result shocks much less today given it was quite inevitable that 2009 would be a good year. SV’s result is quite a disaster from the party, continuously falling since the party’s excellent result in 2001. Most voters probably shifted back to Labour, like a lot had done in 2005 since 2001 was also Labour’s nadir. However, SV has been able to recover from such nadirs, most notably after the party polled absolute crap in 1997 came 2001.

The Centre’s vote has proven remarkably stable since 1997, and, if one excludes the huge glitch in 1993 (Centre did well because it was the large anti-EU party), since 1977. I would guess that the Centre’s rural bloc has had little reason to move since then.

In terms of small parties, always fun to observe, the Coastal Party (which held a seat until 2005) did awfully this election, due to internal rivalries and its top figure leaving the party. It was reduced to crumbs even in the party’s top two municipalities in Trømso County. The party placed fourth of the extra-parliamentary parties, behind Red (of course) but also the Pensioners and Norway’s small Green Party. The old Communist Party (NKP) won 697 votes in all. In terms of extremists, the moralfag Abortion Opponent’s List (which hates abortions, evolution, feminism, homosexuals, non-Christians, everything damn it) won 177 votes, ahead of the Nazi-Norse mythologic Vigrid (174 votes) but behind the racist Patriots (184 votes). A party wishing to abolish Nynorsk as a written language got 107 votes running only in Akershus County.

Below is a map of the results of the various relevant parties (all parties winning seats and Rødt) in each of Norway’s 19 counties.

Norway 2009 - Parties

Labour’s vote has seen little switches since the 1950s (I have a few old maps of Norwegian elections from those days). It is clear that the Labour Party itself is strong in the bokmål-speaking areas of Norway, which is pretty much everywhere except the south-western coast of the country. Its best results come from inland areas and also Nør-Trøndelag – which, if I remember correctly, are major logging areas but also from mineral-rich northern Norway, especially Finnmark, the northernmost county. Trømso, which is a lighter glitch on a sea of dark Labour red is more conservative and the fishing industry, more conservative, remains important there. It was also the base of the old Coastal Party.

Looking at the patterns of the Socialist Left could give the impression of a vote coming exclusively from hippies and the like, but it is not so although it’s vote in Oslo is more like that. In the city of Oslo, it’s strong in the urbane, diverse and yuppie areas downtown, most of which are former working-class areas. Those areas now have a high number of immigrants. I wouldn’t know exactly who votes for them in those areas, though. It is also strong in other areas which have suffered economically due to the loss of industries, such as iron ore in SV’s strongest northern municipalities or in Oslo’s poorer suburbs.

Centre is strong in central rural areas, obviously, and there seems to be much less of a linguistic divide than there is for Labour or the right. It seems to have been destroyed in the Bible Belt.

Progress is strong, in general, along the coasts of Norway, dominated by the fishing industry, a pattern even more striking if you look at the town maps in the various counties. It is also strong in the very conservative ‘Norwegian Bible Belt’. It is not as strong in the posher and urbane areas such as Oslo and its (albeit right-leaning) suburbia, Bergen and Trondheim. It would seem that Progress is stronger in lower-income fishing areas than anywhere else, though oil drilling is important off the western coast of Norway so it might be more of a drill-baby-drill vote than anything else.

The Conservatives main base remains larger cities, especially Oslo and notably its posh suburbia, where the party polled best on Monday. However, saying that the Conservative vote in Oslo and cities is a hippie vote would be very wrong – those types vote SV or Red. However, the Conservatives seem to hold on to a coastal and rural vote in the conservative Nynorsk-speaking coastal areas.

The Christian Democratic vote is a map of the religious, conservative, rural and Nynorsk-speaking Norwegian Bible Belt. It polls absolute crap in Oslo, predictably.

The Liberals seem to have been reduced to a upper middle-class and some yuppie vote in Oslo and its posh suburbia. Some of the Liberal Party’s best areas in Oslo also have a high SV vote, amusingly.

The Red vote is mostly a urbane hippie vote, as most of Red-type parties in Europe tend to be by far and large. It polled best in Oslo County but also well in Ordaland (Bergen) and Sør-Trøndelag (Trondheim).


Posted on September 18, 2009, in Norway, Political and Electoral Demographics. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Even if the Liberals had passed the 4% threshold for adjustment seats, it would only have shifted one seat from the centre-left to the centre-right. Most of their gain would have come from the Progress Party, the Conservatives and the Christian People’s Party.

    Bokmål and nynorsk are not two different spoken languages, but rather different written standards of Norwegian. Most Norwegians speak a local dialect anyway. Bokmål is by far more widespread than Nynorsk, which has it’s strongholds in the rural parts of Western Norway and the western parts of Eastern Norway. Even in Western Norway, Bokmål is the most used varity in the cities.

    It is not entirely accurate to say that the right wing is strongest in the Nynorsk-using areas. These areas have traditionally been dominated by the centrist parties (Centre Party, Christan People’s Party, Liberal Party). These parties, especially the Liberals, are weaker today than they used to be half a century ago, but they still have much support in rural areas in this region. The Conservative Party is mostly an urban party, so I am pretty sure it has little support among Nynorsk users. The Progress party have however made inroads in some parts of this area, but not all. The county in Norway were Nynorsk is most used, and the only one were it is dominant, Sogn og Fjordane, is also the conty in Western Norway were the right wing parties are weakest.

    Not suprisingly, the two right-wing parties (Progress Party and Conservative Party) is the least friendly to Nynorsk, and want to have less Nynorsk education in the schools.

  2. Wishing you and yours a very happy and prosperous new year !

  3. Here’s wishing you a very happy and prosperous new year !

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