Young Norwegians, politicized by the massacre of 77 people by far-right militant Anders Behring Breivik, will play a key role in an election next week that could hinge on issues close to their hearts such as climate change. In 2011 Breivik killed eight people in a bombing in central Oslo and gunned down another 69 at a Labour Party youth camp on Utoeya Island, in the worst attacks in Norway since World War Two. They motivated a generation of young people, often children or teenagers at the time, to become more involved in mainstream politics – both on the left and the right – in a backlash against his xenophobic and anti-Muslim world view. And data shows young voters are now more likely than in the past to actually cast their ballots. “I felt so powerless that day. It was a way to fight back,” said Anja Ariel Toernes Brekke, 21, who joined the youth wing of the Labour Party a few weeks after Breivik’s attacks. She is now the general secretary of the far-left Red party’s youth wing. “I wanted to prove that the left was not weakened, that there would be people with those beliefs to replace those who had died,” she told Reuters.
Brekke is touring schools in Norway to get the youth vote out. On a recent morning, she was at the Cathedral School in Hamar, 120 km (75 miles) north of Oslo, to take part in a debate with other young politicians in front of 1,250 high-school students packed in a gym hall.
“Our society is more unequal. What we lack is justice. We need a new politics,” she told the crowd, to applause.
Her party, the Reds, could be one of several kingmakers in Monday’s parliamentary election, in which the right-wing bloc of Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg is neck-and-neck in opinion polls with an opposition grouping led by Jonas Gahr Stoere’s Labour.