Norway's Labor Party wins big after terror attacks

AP News
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Posted: Sep 13, 2011 7:41 AM
Norway's Labor Party wins big after terror attacks

Norway's ruling Labor Party won its best local election result in more than two decades and the anti-immigrant Progress Party plummeted in support two months after attacks by a right-wing fanatic killed 77 people.

Riding a wave of sympathy, Labor won 33.2 percent of the vote while the Conservatives jumped to second place with 27.7 percent, with 99 percent of the votes counted Tuesday in county and municipal elections. The right-wing Progress Party sunk to 11.8 percent from 18.5 percent in the 2007 election.

The Sunday-Monday election came seven weeks after an anti-Muslim extremist slaughtered 69 people at a Labor Party youth camp and set off a car bomb outside government offices killing another eight people. Anders Behring Breivik confessed to the July 22 killings but denies criminal responsibility, saying he's in a state of war against Norway's immigration policies, which he largely blames on the Labor Party.

Analysts said although the Progress Party's support had started to wane in polls a few years ago, its election result was definitely impacted by the terror attacks.

"The party feared it would become associated with Breivik," said Anders Todal Jenssen, professor in political science at the Trondheim university. "The drop in their support is partly a result of July 22."

Breivik belonged to the Progress Party from 1999 to 2006 but said he grew disillusioned with the party and concluded that the only way to stop what he called the "Islamization" of Norway and Europe was through armed struggle.

After the terror attacks, the Progress Party moderated its anti-immigrant stance, which had one of its major election themes.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's Labor Party gained from his deft handling of the terror crisis, which was praised by supporters and critics alike.

"Labor gained from a sympathy effect, but also the way Stoltenberg handled the terror tragedy," Todal Jenssen said.

Stoltenberg told jubilant supporters that Labor won because it persevered through difficult times.

"We have been victorious because we have risen up and finished the race," Stoltenberg said.

Labor's traditional rival, the Conservative Party, increased its support the most, gaining nine percentage points to push ahead of the right-wing Progressive Party, which had eclipsed the Conservatives in parliamentary elections two years ago.

Turnout was almost 63 percent _ the highest since the 1995 municipal elections.

All parties had agreed to hold short, low-key campaigns after the July terror attacks rocked the Scandinavian nation, a prosperous and generally tolerant society. Campaigning was postponed until mid-August.

The local elections _ for councils in 430 municipalities and 19 counties _ are not expected to have a major impact on government policy in this nation of 5 million, which enjoys the benefits of oil wealth, a thriving economy and cradle-to-grave social services.