An anti-immigration party in Norway’s coalition government headed for its worst election result in 22 years in a local vote on Monday after its opposition to Syrian refugees put it out of step with many voters. The right-wing Progress Party had 9.7 percent with 87 percent of the votes counted, against 16.3 percent in a parliamentary vote in 2013. It was Progress’ worst election since receiving 6.3 percent of the vote in 1993. The election was also a blow to the Conservative Party, the senior partner in the two-party government which came to office in 2013 and has struggled with falling prices of oil, Norway’s main export, and rising unemployment. The Conservatives’ share fell to 22.4 percent, down 5.6 percentage points from four years ago as voters swung left.
Progress had sought to turn the municipal election into a vote on a Norwegian plan it opposes to take in 8,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2017, arguing locally elected politicians could refuse to accept them.
“Normally the immigration debate would have been a good thing for the Progress Party, but this is not a normal debate because the catastrophe is so huge and the scenes we see unfolding so terrible,” said political scientist Svein Tore Marthinsen.
Many Norwegians swung to a more welcoming mood towards refugees, especially after the body of drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi was pictured washed up on a beach in Turkey this month.