When Truls Gulowsen began campaigning in the 1990s, telling Norway it had both a moral obligation and an economic interest in phasing out the industry that has made it rich was not what might be called a vote winner. But as Norwegians go to the polls on Monday, the future of their country’s giant oil and gas business is a major electoral issue – with parties that back curbs or even a shutdown of the industry set to play a key role in post-election coalition-building.
“The public mood has changed,” said Gulowsen, who heads Greenpeace Norway. “Something’s really happening. For the first time, our national dependency on oil, our responsibility as oil pushers to the rest of the world, are real questions.” With the ruling rightwing bloc of parties and the opposition neck and neck, smaller parties may find themselves kingmakers “It looks like it’s going to be very, very close,” said the election analyst Svein Tore Marthinsen. “Both major parties are declining and the landscape is fragmenting – we could have nine parties in parliament, a record. The final outcome is wide open.”
Public opinion certainly is split. “I think the government’s done OK,” said Harald Bergh, 73, a retired engineer. “They’ve spent wisely, cut taxes, kept us afloat. And no one should touch the oil industry – it’s been our salvation.”