Friday 23 February 2018

Two years after Breivik massacre Norway opts for change

Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik
Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik

Richard Orange Malmo

Norway's Labour prime minister is heading for defeat in today's election, barely two years after he was widely praised for his response to the massacre by right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik.

Jens Stoltenberg urged his compatriots to "answer hatred with love" after the attacks that claimed 69 lives – but appears likely to lose anyway.

If so, the right-wing Conservatives will return to government for the first time in eight years.

This is partly explained by a reaction against the consequences of mass immigration, which has damaged centre-left parties across Europe.

The populist and anti-immigration Progress Party – of which Breivik was briefly a member – also seems poised to do well.

But Mr Stoltenberg's probable defeat would also be attributed to his government's reaction to Breivik's bomb and gun attacks in Oslo on July 22, 2011, which targeted a summer camp on Utoya island held by Labour's youth wing.

The official inquiry was "an absolutely devastating critique of the police and Norway's ability to deal with any crisis", said Frank Aarebrot, a professor of politics at the University of Bergen.

"And it really scarred the Labour Party's image of being the party of good governance in Norway."

Immediately after the attacks, support for Labour rose to 40.5pc, giving the party a commanding lead over the Conservatives on 22pc, according to one poll.

But after the official inquiry published its report a year later, the Conservatives immediately seized the lead, rising to 34pc compared with Labour's 29.7pc.

Mr Stoltenberg's personal popularity declined along with that of his party.

VULNERABLE

Loss of faith in Labour's competence then made it vulnerable to attacks from the right on the issues of health, care for the elderly and social welfare.

Mr Stoltenberg (55) is also fighting the "time for a change" factor.

Labour has been in office for two consecutive terms – a rare feat in Norwegian politics – and winning a third term was always going to be a major challenge for the party. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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