|Norway's anti-immigration party suffers election setback|
| [13.09.2011, 03:24pm, Tue. GMT]|
|Norway's populist anti-immigration party was the big loser in Norway's local elections that were in the end influenced very little by the July 22 twin attacks, observers said on Tuesday. The Progress Party, of which killer Anders Behring Breivik was a member until 2006, saw its support fall by six percentage points from its score in the previous 2007 elections to 11.4 percent, near-definitive results published by the government showed.In contrast, the Conservatives and the Labour Party were the big winners in Monday's election, where voter turnout was lower than expected after politicians had urged Norwegians to turn out en masse to show their disdain for Behring Breivik's views.|
The 32-year-old, who killed 77 people in twin attacks on the government offices in Oslo and a Labour party youth camp, claims to hate Western-style democracy because it embraces the multicultural society he detests.
"After the national tragedy this summer, this election became a sort of referendum on our democracy which was supposed to translate into a strong mobilisation among voters," said Harald Stanghelle, a political commentator for Norway's newspaper of reference Aftenposten.
"This was not the case. I'm surprised and saddened," he told AFP.
Voter turnout came in at 62.6 percent, just above the 61.7 percent registered four years ago.
Others said they saw instead positive signs that Norway's democracy was not easily influenced one way or the other by the twin attacks.
"It's good that an unscrupulous child killer can have such a minimal effect on the political landscape," said Tore Gjerstad, a political correspondent for financial daily Dagens Naerinsgliv.
According to observers, the Progress Party's decline was not directly linked to its former ties with the killer. The party had vehemently distanced itself from him, and had already seen its support fall prior to the attacks.
The party was hit in early 2011 by a sex scandal that was badly handled by the party leadership, according to political commentators. It then had to tone down much of its anti-immigration rhetoric during the election campaign.
Compared to its score in the 2009 general elections, the party received half the amount of support.
The setback "is largely explained by the fact that we had a very difficult year where we did not have a lot of opportunities to talk about our politics," party leader Siv Jensen told daily VG.
The biggest winner of the elections, the Conservative Party, saw its support rise by 8.7 percentage points from the previous local polls in 2007, to 28 percent, and is expected to retain its hold on most of Norway's big cities, including Oslo.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's Labour party, the primary target of the July attacks, received a wave of public sympathy immediately after the killings.
Before the summer the party had been expected to lose ground but ultimately saw its score rise by 1.9 points to 31.6 percent.
"The 'July 22 effect' that many people had expected did not really materialise," said Bernt Aardal, an Oslo University political scientist.
"Ultimately, this election marks a return to normal in politics," he said.