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Anti toll road party came third in Bergen

Anti toll road party came third in Bergen

| Text and photo: Bjørn Lønnum Andreassen

Old political parties which spend years gathering too few votes fail to engage generations, while new one-issue parties are emerging. Political constellations change while we are waiting to see who might gain some power.

Geir Lippestad is known as the defence lawyer representing the 22 July Oslo and Utøya terrorist. He has also represented the Labour Party on the Oslo city council. Now he is launching the new party Sentrum. One of his co-founders is John Harald Bondevik, son of former Prime Minister and leader of the Christian Democratic Party (KrF) Kjell Magne Bondevik. 

So far, many in the party are former KrF members from the party’s left. Lippestad is overwhelmed by the launch. He does not want to say anything about possible trends but thinks something is clearly missing when old parties fail to attract votes for years.    

Geir Lippestad

Geir Lippestad heads the new political party Sentrum after leaving the Labour Party in  Oslo. 

“100,000 people with reduced mobility are without work and this has been happening for many years without anyone doing anything about it politically. We believe there is a need for a new party and we have gathered many of the 5,000 physical signatures needed to get going incredibly fast. We will be independent from the traditional right and left blocks, but right now we support Jonas Gahr Støre (Labour) as the new Prime Minister of Norway. We are now a centre-left party,” Lippestad told the Nordic Labour Journal.

“The party’s gene”

“Issues that are important to us include climate change and the fight against exclusion. It’s in our DNA. We are talking about wholeness, and believe you need to include industrial politics, ownership and how we should invest in Norway. We will have a different industry apart from oil exploration in 15 years from now. We have to take international responsibility, for instance for the refugees in the Moria camp,” he says, and confirms that Sentrum is expected to be a pro-EU party.

When asked whether it would perhaps be better to merge political parties in a relatively sparsely populated country like Norway, he points to diversity.

“The fact that we have so many parties shows the breadth of our living democracy.”

Toll roads – one issue

One example of a one-issue party that has spiced up traditional politics in Bergen, Norway’s second city, is the People’s Movement No to More Toll (FNB). Cesilie Tveit was one of 11 members elected to the city council one year ago. 

Cesilie Tveit

The People's Movement No to more Toll became the second largest on Bergen city council in the 2019 municipal elections. Cesilie Tveit is one of the 11 members who are now helping run Bergen politics.

“We are a grown-up group of people with broad experience from working life, and this has been a major advantage. We sit on various committees and with our experiences from working life we can contribute well politically. So we are more than a one-issue party. The committees benefit from our real-life experiences, and the administration and other politicians are very generous in my experience. They see that we are capable and willing to improve our city,” she says, but refuses to firmly put the party on the right or left.

“We are in ‘the centre’. We cooperate with several parties to secure votes for an issue, and we have at least as many issues on the red [left] as the blue [conservative] side. Issues are more important than supporting one political block or another. We can establish a party because the democracy is working.”

Better understood

Harald Hove is the head of the Conservative group in the Bergen city council. He believes FNB has a lot of credibility on one issue.

“This is perhaps the one-issue parties’ big problem. In the more established parties we can change the way we talk so that others will understand, and not speak in a nerdy tribal language,” says Hove.

“In the established parties we have not given good enough answers to issues that have engaged voters, and voters might have got angry and taken their vote elsewhere,” says Hove. The pensioners’ party and the Greens are two other new parties on the Bergen city council. 

Crossing over 

The Centre Party’s (SP) team in Oslo is also growing, as the MP Jan Bøhler has chosen to leave Labour and accept SP’s first place on the list for next year’s parliamentary elections. Bøhler is a high-profile Oslo politician who could help lift important issues for SP in Oslo and nationally, according to the party. Bøhler has traditionally often cooperated with the Centre Party.

People's Movement No to More Toll

The one-issue party "People's Movement No to More Toll " gained 11 seats on the city council of Bergen a year ago, threatening both the Conservative party, which got 14 seats and the Labour party, which got 13. All in all 67 seats are divided between 11 political parties. The speed with which the new party gained power is one reason the established parties also feel threatened by Geir Lippestad's new party Sentrum.


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