One for the Record - the 1997 Storting Election



Norwegian politics remains in a turbulent and volatile state. The 1997 Storting election became a record-breaking election where two parties, the Christian Peoples Party and the Progress Party, achieved their best ever results. The Conservative Party experienced the worst result in the party's more than hundred years' history. The Labor Party had its second worst election since the 1930s, while the Center party halved its number of voters and lost two thirds of their MPs compared to the previous election. The election campaign played a decisive role in this outcome. More than half of the voters decided which party to vote for during the campaign. Lack of commitment, rather than the parties' ability to create a positive interest in the election, seems to have caused the large shifts in support for the parties and the record-high share of voters who decided during the campaign. 43 percent of the voters changed party preference from 1993 to 1997. If we exclude non-voters, 33 percent switched party. The main issues of the campaign were health and eldercare. Although these issues dominated in all party groups, we find clear evidence of “issue ownership,” where specific parties attract voters with particular agendas and issue priorities. The Labor Party government stepped down after the election and was replaced by a centrist government led by Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik. The new government is one of the weakest minority governments in Norwegian history and is only supported by 42 of the 165 Storting members.