Progress Party (Norway): Wikis

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Progress Party
Fremskrittspartiet
Leader Siv Jensen
Parliamentary leader Siv Jensen
Founded 1973
Headquarters Karl Johans gate 25
0159 Oslo
Youth wing Youth of the Progress Party
Membership 27,000 (2009)[1]
Ideology Classical liberalism,[2] Conservative liberalism,[3]
Right-wing populism[4]
Political position Right-wing
International affiliation None
European affiliation None
Official colours Blue, Red
Parliament:
Counties:[5]
Municipalities:[5]
Website
www.frp.no
Politics of Norway
Political parties
Elections

The Progress Party (Bokmål: Fremskrittspartiet, Nynorsk: Framstegspartiet, FrP), is a Norwegian right-wing political party. It became the second largest political party in Norway for its first time in the 1997 parliamentary election, and has been so ever since, only abrupted by the 2001 parliamentary election. Despite of this, the party has yet to be part of a Norwegian government, mainly as a result of the concurrent ostracism by most of the other mainstream political parties.

Founded in 1973 as Anders Lange's Party for a Strong Reduction in Taxes, Duties and Public Intervention, the self-explaining former name still stands as the foundation of the party. While currently having the official ideology of classical liberalism, the party has also increasingly profiled itself on criticism and opposition to the Norwegian governmental immigration and integration policies, a call for tougher law and order and a strengthening of care for the elderly. Long-time chairman Carl I. Hagen was from 1978 to 2006 the centre of the party, and in many ways personally controlled the ideology and policies of the party.[6]

Currently the party has over 27,000 members and is the only major party in Norway that is experiencing a steady continuous increase in membership, while other parties are experiencing a steady decrease in membership.[7] The current leader of the Progress Party is Siv Jensen, who was the party's candidate for Prime Minister of Norway in the 2009 parliamentary election.

Contents

History

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Founding and early years

The Progress Party was founded at the movie theater Saga Kino in Oslo on 8 April 1973, with an address held by Anders Lange, as Anders Lange's Party for a Strong Reduction in Taxes, Duties and Public Intervention[2] (Anders Langes Parti til sterk nedsettelse av skatter, avgifter og offentlige inngrep), usually referred to simply as Anders Lange's Party, or abbreviated ALP. Anders Lange intended the party to be more like an anti-tax protest movement than a regular political party. The protest was directed against what he claimed to be an unacceptably high level of taxes, subsidies, and foreign aid.[8] The populist themes helped him win 5% of the vote and gain four seats in the Norwegian parliament Stortinget in the 1973 parliamentary election. The first party conference was held in Hjelmeland in 1974, where the party established its first political conventions.[9]

In early 1974, deputy MP Carl I. Hagen, along with some others, broke away and formed the short-lived Reform Party.[10] The background for this was a criticism of ALPs "undemocratic organisation" and lack of a real party program. Later the same year however, Anders Lange died, which resulted in Hagen replacing him as a regular MP. The Reform Party because of this merged back into ALP already by the next year. The party adopted its current name, the Progress Party, on 29 January 1977, inspired by the great success of the Danish Progress Party.[11] The Progress Party performed poorly in the 1977 parliamentary election, being left without parliamentary representation, and at the party conference of 1978, Carl I. Hagen was elected as chairman of the party. Hagen soon started to build up the organisation of the party, which Lange and some of his followers had been opposed to, as opponents of the system of political parties in itself.[12]

Carl I. Hagen, succeeded in sharpening the image of the party as an anti-tax movement. His criticism of the wisdom of hoarding billions of dollars worth in the "State Fund" hit a nerve due to perceived declines in infrastructure, schools, and social services and long queues at hospitals.[13] Indeed, it was by a public report in 2010 shockingly[14] revealed that the overall infrastructure of Norway was in a heavy lag, and was in need of a total 800 billion NOK (137 billion USD) – one third of the entire Norwegian state oil fund – in costs, just to make maintenance and upgrades comply with "good" or "necessary" standards after "years of neglect of the main arteries of society".[15]

Electoral breakthrough

Carl I. Hagen, prominent leader of the Progress Party for nearly three decades, from 1978 to 2006.

For the first 26 years of its history, the party enjoyed only modest success in the polls. While it had dropped out of parliament altogether in 1977, the party returned already in the next 1981 parliamentary election with four members of parliament.

During the 1980s the ideology of the party was sharpened, and at the party conference of 1983 it was established that the Progress Party was a libertarian party.[16] In the 1985 parliamentary election the party lost two of its four members of parliament, but was however left with some controlling power as they came in between, or rather beyond, the two main power blocks as the kingmaker. The Progress Party used this position in May 1986, to effectively throw the sitting Conservative Party-led government after it had requested to increase gas-taxes. A minority Labour Party government was reinserted as a result.[10]

The first real breakthrough for the party in Norwegian politics came in the 1987 local elections when the party nearly doubled its support, from 6.3% to 12.3% (county results). This was largely as immigration was for the first time seriously taken up as an issue by the party (Hagen had though already in the late 1970s called for a strongly restrictive immigration policy[13]), and successfully put on the national agenda.[16] It was additionally helped by the infamous "Mustafa-letter", a letter purporting a future Islamic, largely demographic takeover of Norway.[10] In 1989, the party followed and made its breakthrough in national politics. In the 1989 parliamentary election, the party obtained 13%, up from 3.7% in 1985, and became the third largest party in Norway. It started to gain power in some local administrations. In 1988 the party got its first mayor by Håkon Rege in Sola,[17] and in 1990 Peter N. Myhre became the mayor of the capital Oslo.[18]

Turmoil and surge

The 1993 parliamentary election halved the party's support to 6.3% and ten members of parliament. This drop in support can be seen as the result of an internal conflict within the party, between the minority of "extreme libertarians"[19], "ultra-libertarians"[20] or "neoliberalists"[21], and the majority of "moderate libertarians" (or "populists"), that had reached the surface in 1992.[22] The "extreme libertarians" had turned the party to in practice completely remove its focus on immigration, declaring it a "non-issue" in the early 1990s, which was heavily punished by voters in 1993, as well as 1991.[23] While many of the extreme libertarians had abstained from running for the 1993 election, like Tor Mikkel Wara, or had been turned down by voters,[24] the conflict finally culminated in 1994. Following the party conference at Bolkesjø Hotell in Telemark this year, four (of the total ten) MPs of the "libertarian wing" in the party broke out as independents. This incident was later nicknamed "Dolkesjø", a pun on the name of the hotel, and with "dolke" meaning to "lit. stab (in the back) /betray".[25]

These events has been seen by many political scientists as a turning point for the party.[26] Subsequently the extreme libertarians founded a libertarian organisation called the Free Democrats which tried to organise like a political party, but without success. Parts of the younger management of the party and the more libertarian youth organisation of the party also broke away, and even tried to disestablish the entire youth organisation.[24] The youth organisation was however soon running again, this time with more "loyal" members, although it remained more libertarian than its mother organisation. After this, the Progress Party had a more right-wing populist profile, which resulted in a strong gain in support.[11]

With the 1995 local elections the Progress Party regained its position that it had lost in 1991 from the 1987 elections, and nearly doubled its support. This regain of voters is largely said to have been as a result of a strong focus on Progress Party core issues in the electoral campaign, especially immigration, as well as the Progress Party dominating the media picture as a result of the controversy around the immigration related 1995 Norwegian League meeting at Godlia kino.[27][28]

In the 1997 parliamentary election, the party obtained 15.3%, and for the first time became the second largest political party in Norway. The 1999 local elections further resulted in the first mayor being directly elected by an election from the party, namely Terje Søviknes in Os. 20 municipalities also elected a deputy mayor from the Progress Party.

Early 2000s and turmoil

Before the 2001 parliamentary election, the Progress Party had seen polls at a top of around 30-35% around September 2000,[29] but its support fell back to 1997 levels in the actual election, following both internal turmoil with vice chairman Terje Søviknes being involved in a sex scandal, and internal disagreements.[30] Carl I. Hagen had already in 1999 seen it necessary to try to quiet the most markant immigration opponents in the parliamentary group of the party. In late 2000 and early 2001, attempts of opposition to this locally in Oslo, Hordaland and Vest-Agder made the central administration send instructions and orders to the local groups, which sometimes resulted in suspensions and exclusions of local representatives.[6] Eventually he also, in various ways, got rid of the so-called "gang of seven" ("syverbanden"), which consisted of seven members of parliament.[31] This "secret strategy" of Hagen leaked out in July.[21] These "populists", "traditionalists"[32] or "worst ones" ("verstingene"), as they were also called, were suspended, excluded or voluntarily left.[11] This notably included MP Vidar Kleppe (suspended, left)[33] who was thought of as the "leader" of the "gang of seven",[31] MP Dag Danielsen (suspended, left), MP Fridtjof Frank Gundersen (left),[34] later followed by MP Jan Simonsen who however did not get excluded until after the election.[35] Only MP Øystein Hedstrøm of the faction remained in the party, though was since largely kept away from immigration politics.[36]

This again caused some turmoil with followers of the excluded members, resulting in strong criticism and resignations from the party,[37] and even the closure of some of its local chapters.[38] Some of these outcasts ran for the 2001 election in several new county lists, and further some formed the more national conservative anti-immigration party called the Democrats, with Vidar Kleppe as chairman and Jan Simonsen as vice-chairman. Though their tougher positions against immigration constantly led to controversies, the reason for the actions taken against them were also based on internal issues,[39][40] though it remains a question to what degree the settlement was based primarily on political disagreements or tactical measures.[22] Hagen's main goal with the "purge" was anyways generally an attempt to make it possible for centre and centre-right parties to cooperate in an eventual government together with the Progress Party.[11] Regardless, the more moderate libertarian minority in Oslo, including Henning Holstad, Svenn Kristiansen and Siv Jensen, now improved their hold in the party.[41]

This conflict has been compared politically with that which happened with the Danish Progress Party around 1995, when members such as its leader Pia Kjærsgaard broke away and formed the more national conservative Danish People's Party,[42] which the Norwegian Democrats also has regarded as its sister party.

In the 2001 election the party lost the gains it had made according to opinion polling but maintained its position from the 1997 election, it got 14.6% and 26 members in the parliament. The election result allowed them to unseat the Labour Party government of Jens Stoltenberg and replace it with a three-party coalition led by Christian Democrat Kjell Magne Bondevik. However, the coalition continued to decline to govern together with the Progress Party as they considered the political differences too large. In 2002 the Progress Party again advanced in the opinion polls and for a while became the largest party.[43][44]

From 2005 electoral campaign. A person pointing a handgun towards the viewer, with caption "The perpetrator is of foreign origin!" with the undertitle "(Quote in the press we often read)". The advertisement was heavily criticised by opposing Norwegian politicians, though in an informal website poll by Dagbladet, half of Norwegians thought it to be "okay".[45][46]

Mid-2000s and final breakthrough

The local elections of 2003 were a success for the party. In 36 municipalities, the party gained more votes than any other, but it succeeded to elect the mayor only in 13 of these, though in addition to 40 deputy mayors.[47] The Progress Party has participated in local elections since 1975, but until 2003 the party had only held the mayor position three times, all separately in time. The Progress Party vote in Os—the only municipality that elected a Progress Party mayor in 1999—increased from 36.6% in 1999 to 45.7% in 2003. The party also became the single largest in the counties of Vestfold and Rogaland.[48]

In the 2005 parliamentary elections, the party again became the second largest party in the Norwegian parliament, with 22.1% of the votes, up 7.4% from 2001, and 38 seats. For the first time the party was also successful in getting members of parliament elected from all the counties of Norway, and even became the largest party in three; Vest-Agder, Rogaland and Møre og Romsdal.[11] After the parliamentary elections in 2005, the party also became the largest party in many opinion polls. The Progress Party led November 2006 opinion polls with a support of 32.9% of respondents, and it continued to poll above 25 percent during the following years.[49][50][51][52]

Siv Jensen, 2006-present

Siv Jensen, as of 2006 the leader of the Progress Party.

In 2006, after 27 years as leader of the party, Carl I. Hagen stepped down to become Vice President of the Norwegian parliament Stortinget. The then 36 year old Siv Jensen was elected as his successor with the hope that she could increase the party's appeal to voters, build bridges to liberal conservative parties, and head or participate in a future government of Norway. In the late 2000s, the Progress Party has been noted for having among the most loyal voters (voters voting for the same party in consecutive elections) of all the parties in parliament.[53][54][55]

Following the local elections of 2007, the Progress Party managed to get the mayor in 17 (by 2008, 18) municipalities, seven of these continuing on from 2003. Deputy mayors for the party however decreased to 33.[56] The party in general strongly increased their support in municipalities were the mayor had been elected from the Progress Party in 2003.[57] The best result came in Nordreisa, where the party held the mayor from the last election, with an increase from 24.6% to 49.3%.[56]

2009 party conference of the Progress Party (with Ove Vanebo (middle) and Ulf Leirstein (right)).

In the months before the 2009 parliamentary elections, the party had, as in the 2001 election, received very high poll results which it lost towards the actual election. Earlier in the year, it had also achieved, at most, above 30% in some polls which made it the largest party by several percentage.[58] With such high gains, the election result was in this case relatively disappointing. Before the election the gains continued to decrease however, and only in the electoral campaign which last for four weeks before the election, the party dropped 3.5% in the poll average. Most of these last losses went to the Conservative Party which had a surprisingly successful campaign. The Progress Party did, regardless, achieve a slight gain from the 2005 election with 22.9%, the best election result in the party's history.

The party also notably for the first time got represented in the Sami Parliament of Norway in 2009, with three representatives, and with the main political goal of disestablishing the Sami parliament.[59] This made them the fourth largest party in the Sami parliament, and second largest of the nationwide parties from the Norwegian parliament. In the school elections, where students at secondary schools all over the country cast their pretend votes (in practice an election survey carried out among students in order to monitor young people's attitudes to elections and politics) the Progress Party continued the success from the 2005 election and again became the largest party in Norway with 24% of the votes.[60]

In March 2010, some polls showed a plurality of seats in parliament for the Progress Party and Conservative Party alone, with about one fourth of total voters for each party.[61][62]

Isolation

Ever since its foundation, other parties have consistently refused the Progress Party's efforts to formally join any governing coalition at the state level, despite the Progress Party having broad popular support. Some of the main points that remains controversial with the other parties is the party's alleged irresponsibility and its position on immigration and related issues.[63]

Recently though, after the 2005 elections which saw a further increase in support for the Progress Party, the Conservatives stated they wanted to be "a bridge between FrP and the centre". This is because the two other non-socialist parliamentary parties, the Liberal Party[64] and Christian Democratic Party[65] reject to participate in a government coalition of which the Progress Party is a member, and the Progress Party also does not want to support a coalition of which they aren't a part of.[66]

At the local level of municipalities, the Progress Party however cooperate with most parties, including the centre-left Labour Party.[67] In 2007 it also attracted some unusual attention when the local Porsgrunn Progress Party even cooperated, though merely "election technically", with the Socialist Left Party and Red Electoral Alliance.[68]

Ideology

The Progress Party currently defines itself as a classical liberal[2], or conservative liberal[3][69] party, and is additionally often externally described as being "(right-wing) populist".[70] While more fundamental libertarianism was earlier a component of its ideology, this has in practice gradually more or less vanished from the party.[71] As of the late 2000s, the party has also been influxed with the related ideology of thatcherism, notably with Siv Jensen becoming party leader.[72] The Progress Party identifies itself in the preamble of its platform as a libertarian party, built on Norwegian and Nordic traditions and cultural heritages, with a basis in a Protestant and humanist understanding of life. Its main declared goal is a strong reduction in taxes and government intervention.

The core issues for the party revolves around immigration, crime, foreign aid, the elderly and social security in regards to health and care for the elderly. The party is regarded as having policies on the right in most of these cases, both fiscally and socially, though in some cases, like care for the elderly, the policy is regarded as being on the left.[73] A 2007 survey of party supporters found that 74% considered themselves to be on the political right, 18% in the centre and 8% on the left.[74]

History

It has been claimed that the party during the 1980s moved more away from populism towards libertarianism[70], and that since the 1990s, the importance of libertarianism in the party again decreased.[73] Further, also that the first three decades of the party changed, in turn from an "outsider movement", to libertarianism, to right-wing populism.[75] The party has since the 1990s also tried, to some degree, to moderate some of its policies and views to seek government cooperation with centre-right parties.[76] This has been especially true since the suspension and exclusion of certain members around 2001, and further under the lead of Siv Jensen from 2006[77], when the party has tried to move and position itself more towards liberal conservatism and also seek cooperation with such parties abroad.[69]

Some, notably Liberal Party leader Lars Sponheim, claimed that the party had become more extreme between the 2005 and 2009 elections, citing a use of much more public funds than other parties, "enormous" tax cuts, and its alleged views on multiculturalism in Norway.[78]

Society and economy

The party has libertarianism as a guideline for its economic policy, partly because it claims this leads to a power distribution in society. The main idea in its economic policy is that public consumption must be reduced and the bureaucracy must be cut, and that the state should only carry out tasks such as private persons can not resolve themselves.[79]

As a consequence of this, the Progress Party see it as an important task to abolish both the public and private monopolies, and that free competition should not be prevented through private or public cartels and monopolies. Because of this, the Progress Party wants the Competition Authority to be free and have much power.[80]

The Progress Party places highly in its program the right of the individual to decide about its own life and economy, and claims the individual is, together with the family and the right to own private property, a fundamental of society. The party does not want the state to solve problems that they claim might be handled better by individuals, private companies or organizations. It also proposes to increase taxation on consumption to compensate for reduced taxation on work, although it has given very high priority to reduction of gas taxes and supported the reduction of food taxes from 24% to 12%.

Populism

The Progress Party is traditionally, and has a history, of being portrayed externally as populist or right-wing populist (or other similar terms[4]), both by opposing politicians[81], as well as some scholars[82][83]. Other scholars have however found that populism is at best a minor element for the party[84], and that the policies of the party historically has been much more consistent than for instance those of the Labour Party which moved more towards the Progress Party and neoliberalism since the 1980s.[85]

Immigration

The policy of the party is to favour immigrants who quickly learn Norwegian and get jobs, while expelling foreigners who don't contribute to Norwegian society. Generally the party want a stricter immigration policy, so that only people who are in real need for protection according to the UN Refugee Convention are to be allowed to stay in Norway.[86] In a speech during opening of the election campaign for the 2007 election, the party chairman Siv Jensen claimed that the present immigration policy is a failure because it lets criminals stay in Norway, while throwing out people who work hard and follow the law. The party claims the current immigration and integration policy to be both naive and "snillistisk" (meaning overtly "kind" or "nice", "kind-ist").[86] The party however claim to not have a principled opposition to immigration in itself, but rather the opposite, explaining the reason for the in practice opposition being pragmatically based.[69][87]

In the so-called "100-day program", released before the 2009 election, the party set the official goal of reducing the flow of new asylum seekers with about 90%, from 1.000 to 100 a month, the standards currently used in Denmark and Finland.[88] Even stricter standards, such as a bar of 100 asylum seekers a year, have however been suggested as recently as 2008. Immigration political spokesman Per-Willy Amundsen then further said the party want to "avoid illiterates and other poorly resourced groups who we see are not able to adopt in Norway", with some specific countries including Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Amundsen and party leader Jensen also thought it was wrong that asylum seekers get to stay in Norway on humanitarian grounds or because of health issues.[89]

A poll conducted by Utrop in August 2009 showed that 10% (14% if the respondents answering "Don't know" are removed) of immigrants in Norway would vote for the Progress Party, only beaten by the Labour Party, when asked.[90] More specificallly, this constituted 9% of both African and Eastern European immigrants, 22% of Western European immigrants and 3% of Asian immigrants.[91] By comparison, 22.9% of the electorate voted for the Progress Party in the 2009 parliamentary elections. Numerous people of immigrant background are also active in the party,[92][93] most notably deputy parliamentary representative Iranian-Norwegian Mazyar Keshvari.

Other

Concerning Norwegian membership in the European Union, the Progress Party as of 2009 consider the matter to be a "non-issue", and thinks there is no reason for a debate of a new referendum, though it assures it would respect the result of one.[94] The party also demand that an eventual referendum must be held before applying for membership, in contrast to the Labour Party and Conservative Party who want to apply for membership without any referendum.[95] In 2007, by voters of the Progress Party, 55% did not want to join the EU, while 37% would.[96] Of MPs of the party, in 2008, of the 32 (of a total 38) who answered, 14 were against membership, 10 for, and 8 undecided. Former pro-EU MPs who in later years have turned sceptical or against the EU, include Siv Jensen, Carl I. Hagen, Per Sandberg and Per-Willy Amundsen.[97]

International affiliation

The Progress Party does not belong to any international political groups, and does not have any official sister parties. In 2008 however, the party for the first time set out to build its international reputation by hiring two international secretaries to travel internationally and establishing contact with politicians and parties abroad. This was cited especially to "not risk being declared as extremists by opponents the day we form a government".[98] An international secretary for the party in the same year said that the party had been connected with a "misunderstood right-wing radical label", partly because of the long-term international isolation, and partly because historically persons with more nationalistic and "hopeless attitudes" had been involved in the party. Such persons were said to no longer be involved with the party[69] (see History, and the separate article; Democrats).

Denmark

In Denmark, the Progress Party was in its early years, during the 1970s, originally inspired by its Danish counterpart, the Progress Party, which however went into a strong decline since and fell out of parliament. In recent years, the party has rather considered Venstre to be its sister party.[99] Originally, and formally, the Danish Venstre was aligned with the Norwegian Liberal Party, and as late as 2006 the international secretary of Venstre, Niels Kirkegaard, said that "we have nothing in common with the Norwegian Progress Party". In 2009 however, the leader of Venstre, Inger Støjberg, had changed and gave her support for the Progress Party, also saying there were "great similarities" between the parties, with news agencies claiming Venstre had now "engaged" itself with the Progress Party.[100]

The Progress Party has also been compared to the more national conservative Danish People's Party, with journalist Lars Halskov suggesting the great support for the party to be a combination of the immigration policies of the DPP and liberalism of Venstre.[101] An international secretary for the Progress Party in 2008 however said that the DPP "belongs to a group of parties we in the Progress Party does not want any contact with whatsoever", reflecting especially on the immigration policy.[69] It was also said that as the DPP has moved to the left in economic issues, the Progress Party considers, not taking the national conservative policies in account, the party to be "social democratic" and "socialist".[69] In 2007 it was also remarked that the Progress Party was "globalisation friendly", as opposed to the DPP, and that the DPP ideologically and politically was in Norway rather comparable to the Democrats.[102]

Political scientist Cas Mudde however regarded the Progress Party to be somewhere in between these two parties.[103]

Other

As the Progress Party has historically not joined any international groups, the party has been approached for international cooperation by more nationalist parties such as Belgian Vlaams Belang[101], French Front National and the Freedom Party of Austria.[103] The Progress Party however, at least as of 2008, consider these, along with the Danish People's Party and the Sweden Democrats to have "murky", "anti-liberal and nationalist foundations". An international secretary for the Progress Party said they "are worried by the development of such parties [...] and strongly distance [them]selves with the values they stand for".[69] The party regard many of these parties to be "national social democratic", and stress a lack of libertarianism as a conflicting issue towards these parties.[103]

In 2008 some of the parties the Progress Party regarded itself closer to included more liberal conservative parties such as the Czech Civic Democratic Party, the British Conservative Party, the Spanish People's Party, the French Union for a Popular Movement and "partly" the (now defunct) Italian Forza Italia.[69] In May 2009 the British Conservative Party invited party leader Siv Jensen to hold a lecture in the House of Commons, which was seen as a further recognition of the party internationally with the approach by the Danish Venstre the previous month.[104]

In the USA, the Progress Party is generally aligned with the Republican Party. For the 2008 US election, a survey also found that most of the Progress Party MPs supported Rudolph Giuliani and (later) John McCain for president, though a few even supported Democratic Party candidates.[105][106]

Party leadership

Party leaders

Deputy party leaders

First deputy leaders

Second deputy leaders

Parliamentary leaders

Parliamentary election results

Progress Party results in the 2009 election, by county, in terms of votes (left) and seats (right).
Election year # of total votes  % of overall vote # of seats
1973 107,784 5.0% 4
1977 43,351 1.9% 0
1981 109,564 4.5% 4
1985 96,797 3.7% 2
1989 345,185 13.0% 22
1993 154,497 6.3% 10
1997 395,376 15.3% 25
2001 369,236 14.6% 26
2005 582,284 22.1% 38
2009 614,717 22.9% 41

See also

References

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