OSLO - Norway’s ruling Labor Party had its best local election result in more than two decades and the anti-immigrant Progress Party plummeted in support two months after attacks by a right-wing fanatic killed 77 people.
Riding a wave of sympathy, Labor won 33.2 percent of the vote while the Conservatives jumped to second place with 27.7 percent, with 99 percent of the votes counted yesterday in county and municipal elections. The right-wing Progress Party sank to 11.8 percent from 18.5 percent in the 2007 election.
The Sunday-Monday election came seven weeks after an anti-Muslim extremist slaughtered 69 people at a Labor Party youth camp and set off a car bomb outside government offices, killing another eight people. Anders Behring Breivik confessed to the July 22 killings but denies criminal responsibility, saying he is in a state of war against Norway’s immigration policies, which he largely blames on the Labor Party.
Analysts said that although the Progress Party’s support had started to wane in polls a few years ago, its election result was definitely affected by the terror attacks.
“The party feared it would become associated with Breivik,’’ said Anders Todal Jenssen, professor in political science at the Trondheim university. “The drop in their support is partly a result of July 22.’’
Breivik belonged to the Progress Party from 1999 to 2006 but said he grew disillusioned with the party and concluded that the only way to stop what he called the “Islamization’’ of Norway and Europe was through armed struggle.
After the terror attacks, the Progress Party moderated its anti-immigrant stance, which had been one of its major election themes.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s Labor Party gained from his deft handling of the terror crisis, which was praised by supporters and critics alike.
Turnout was almost 63 percent, the highest since 1995.