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The Progress Party (Bokmål: Fremskrittspartiet, Nynorsk: Framstegspartiet, FrP), founded as "Anders Lange's Party for a Strong Reduction in Taxes, Duties and Public Intervention", is a Norwegianmarker right-wing political party. It became the second largest political party in Norway for its first time in the 1997 parliamentary election, and has been so ever since, only abrupted by the 2001 parliamentary elections. Despite of this, the party has yet to be part of a Norwegian government, mainly as a result of the concurrent ostracism by most of the other mainstream political parties.

Currently the party has over 27 000 members, the most it has ever had, and is practically the only large political party in Norway which has had a strong steady increase of members for the last years (as opposed to a steady decrease in membership of other parties). The current leader of the Progress Party is Siv Jensen, who was the party's unsuccessful candidate for Prime Minister of Norway in the 2009 parliamentary election.

History

Foundation

The Progress Party was founded on April 8, 1973 with an address held by Anders Lange, as Anders Lange's Party for a Strong Reduction in Taxes, Duties and Public Intervention, usually referred to simply as Anders Lange's Party, or abbreviated "ALP". Anders Lange intended the party to be more like an anti-tax protest movement than a regular political party. The protest was directed against what he claimed to be an unacceptably high level of taxes, subsidies, and foreign aid. The party adopted its current name on January 29, 1977, inspired by the success of the new Danish Progress Party.

The populist themes helped him win 5% of the vote and gain four seats in the Norwegian parliament Stortingetmarker in the 1973 election. But already before his death his intemperate and unpredictable behavior, and his frequent violent outbursts was beginning to damage the party.


Role of Carl I. Hagen

Following Anders Lange's death in 1974, two persons led the party during a brief period of time. In the same year, Carl I. Hagen, then an MP for ALP, along with some others, broke away and formed the short-lived Reform Party. The background for this was a critisism of ALP's "undemocratic organization" and lack of a real party program. The new party was however defunct by the next year. Anders Lange's Party performed poorly in the 1977 election, being left without parliamentary representation, which led to Carl I. Hagen taking control of the party in 1978.

Carl I. Hagen, succeeded in sharpening the image of the party as an anti-tax movement. His criticism of the wisdom of hoarding billions of dollars worth in the “State Fund” hit a nerve due to perceived declines in infrastructure, schools, and social services and long queues at hospitals. In 2006, after 27 years as leader of the party, he stepped down to become Vice President of the Norwegian parliament Stortingetmarker. The then 36 year old Siv Jensen was elected as his successor with the hope that she could increase the party's appeal to voters, build bridges to liberal-conservative parties, and head or participate in a future government of Norway.

Elections and history

For the first 26 years of its history, the party enjoyed only modest success in the polls. In 1977 it dropped out of parliament all together.

In 1981 they came back with four MP's, and they won two in the next election in 1985. Even though the party only got two MP's for the 1985 election, it was however left with some controlling power as they came in between, or rather beyond, the two main power blocks. The Progress Party used this in May 1986, to effectively throw the sitting Conservative Party-led government after it had requested to increase gas-taxes. A minority Labour Party government was reinserted as a result.

The party's first real breakthrough in Norwegian politics came in the 1987 local elections when the party nearly doubled its support, from 6.3 to 12.3% (county elections). This is said to have been largely helped by the infamous "Mustafa-letter". In 1989, the party followed and made its breakthrough in national politics. In the parliamentary election in 1989, the party obtained 13%, and became the third largest party in Norway. It started to gain power in some local administrations. In 1990, Peter N. Myhre, of FrP, became the mayor of Oslomarker.

The 1993 election halved the party's support to 6.3% and 10 representatives. In 1994, four representatives of the "libertarian wing" broke out, following the congress at Bolkesjø, and formed an independent group in parliament. This has been seen by many political scientists as a turning point for the party. Subsequently these founded an libertarian organization called the Free Democrats which tried to organize like a political party, but without success. Parts of the younger management of the party and the more libertarian youth organization of the party also broke away. After this, the Progress Party has had a clear right-wing populist profile, which resulted in a strong gain in support.

In the 1997 election, FrP obtained 15.3%, and was again the third largest party. The 1999 local elections resulted in the first mayor being elected from the party, Terje Søviknes in Osmarker. 20 municipalities got a deputy mayor from the Progress Party.

Before the 2001 election, Frp enjoyed a high level of popular support in 1999–2000, but its support fell back to 1997 levels in the actual election, following both internal turmoil (the then second vice-chairman of the party, Terje Søviknes, was involved in a sex scandal) and internal disagreements. This time, several local representatives in Oslo and some parliamentarians "resigned" from the party. Some "populists", as they were called, were suspended, including Vidar Kleppe, who was suspended for two years, or expelled, as was Jan Simonsen. The "populists" formed a more national conservative anti-immigration party called the Democrats, with Vidar Kleppe as chairman and Jan Simonsen as vice-chairman.

In the 2001 parliamentary election FrP lost the gains it had made according to opinion polling but maintained its position from the 1997 election, it got 14.6% and 26 members in the parliament. The election result allowed them to unseat the Labour Party government of Jens Stoltenberg and replace it with a three-party coalition led by Christian Democrat Kjell Magne Bondevik. However, the coalition declined to govern together with the Progress Party as they considered the political differences too large. In 2002 the Progress Party again advanced in the opinion polls and for a short while became the largest party, and with a strong margin in December 2002.

The local elections in 2003 were a success for FrP. In 30 municipalities, the party gained more votes than any other, but it succeeded to elect the mayor only in 13 of these. The Progress Party has participated in local elections since 1975, but until 2003 the party has only gained the mayor position twice. The Progress Party vote in Os—the only municipality that elected a Progress Party mayor in 1999—increased from 36.6% in 1999 to 45.7% in 2003. The party gained ground across the country, but more so in municipalities where the party had the mayor or the deputy mayor.


In the 2005 parliamentary elections, it was the second largest party in Stortingmarker, with 22.1% of the votes and 38 seats (up from third-largest with 14.6% and 26 seats in the 2001 elections). For the first time the party was also represented in all the counties of Norway, and even became the largest party in three; Vest-Agdermarker, Rogalandmarker and Møre og Romsdalmarker. After the parliamentary elections in 2005, the party was the largest party in many opinion polls. The Progress Party led November 2006 opinion polls with a support of 32.9% of respondents, and it continued to poll above 25 percent during the following years.

In the months before the 2009 parliamentary elections, the party had, as in the 2001 election, received very high poll results which it lost towards the actual election. Earlier in the year it also for instance achieved an May 2006 poll average of up to 32.4% and an August 2008 poll average of up to 31.7% which made it the largest party by several percentage. With such high gains, the election result was in this case relatively disappointing. Before the election the gains continued to decrease however, and just in the electoral campaign which last for four weeks before the election, the party dropped 3.5% in the poll average. Most of these last losses went to the Conservative Party which had a surprisingly successful campaign. The Progress Party did, anyways, receive a slight gain from the 2005 election, up 0.9% from 22.1 to 22.9%, which resulted in the best election result in the party's history.

Isolation

Ever since its foundation, other parties have consistently refused the Progress Party's efforts to formally join any governing coalition at the state level, despite the Progress Party having broad popular support. Some of the main points that remains controversial with the other parties is the party's alleged irresponsibility and its position on immigration and related issues.

Recently though, after the 2005 elections which saw a further increase in support for the Progress Party, the Conservatives stated they wanted to be "a bridge between FrP and the centre". This is because the two other non-socialist parliamentary parties, the Liberal Party and Christian Democratic Party reject to participate in a government coalition of which the Progress Party is a member, and the Progress Party also does not want to support a coalition of which they aren't a part of.

At the local level of municipalities, the Progress Party however cooperate with most parties, including the centre-left Labour Party. In 2007 it also attracted some unusual attention when the local Porsgrunnmarker Progress Party even cooperated, though merely "election technical", with the Socialist Left Party and Red Electoral Alliance.

Political platform

The Progress Party defines itself as a libertarian, or liberal conservative party, and is often described as being "(right-wing) populist" and "libertarian". The Progress Party identifies itself in the preamble of its platform as a libertarian party, built on Norwegian and Nordic traditions and cultural heritages, with a basis in a Protestant and humanist understanding of life. Its main declared goal is a strong reduction in taxes and government intervention.

The core issues for the party revolves around immigration, crime, foreign aid, the elderly and social security in regards to health and care for the elderly. The party is regarded as having policies on the right in most of these cases, both fiscally and socially, though in some cases, like care for the elderly, the policy is regarded as being on the left. A 2007 survey of party supporters found that 74% considered themselves to be on the political right, 18% in the centre and 8% on the left.

History

It has been claimed that the party during the 1980s moved more away from populism towards liberalism, and that since the 1990s, the importance of liberalism in the party again decreased. Further, also that the first three decades of the party changed, in turn from an "outsider movement", to liberalism, to right-wing populism. The party has since the 1990s also tried, to some degree, to moderate some of its policies and views to seek government cooperation with centre-right parties. This has been especially true under the lead of Siv Jensen from 2006, when the party has tried to move and position itself more towards liberal conservatism and also seek cooperation with such parties abroad.

Specific Issues

Society and Economy

The party has liberalism as a guideline for its economic policy, partly because it claims this leads to a power distribution in society. The main idea in its economic policy is that public consumption must be reduced and the bureaucracy must be cut, and that the state should only carry out tasks such as private persons can not resolve themselves.

As a consequence of this, the Progress Party see it as an important task to abolish both the public and private monopolies, and that free competition should not be prevented through private or public cartels and monopolies. Because of this, the Progress Party wants the Competition Authority to be free and have much power.

The Progress Party places highly in its program the right of the individual to decide about its own life and economy, and claims the individual is, together with the family and the right to own private property, a fundamental of society. The party does not want the state to solve problems that they claim might be handled better by individuals, private companies or organizations. It also proposes to increase taxation on consumption to compensate for reduced taxation on work, although it has given very high priority to reduction of gas taxes and supported the reduction of food taxes from 24% to 12%.

Immigration

The policy of the party is to favour immigrants who quickly learn Norwegian and get jobs, while expelling the criminal foreigners. Generally the party want a stricter immigration policy, so that only people who are in real need for protection according to the UN Refugee Convention are to be allowed to stay in Norway. In a speech during opening of the election campaign for the 2007 election, the party chairman Siv Jensen claimed that the present immigration policy is a failure because it lets criminals stay in Norway, while throwing out people who work hard and follow the law. The party claims the current immigration and integration policy to be both naive and "snillistisk" (meaning overtly "kind" or "nice", "kind-ist"). The party however claim to not have a principled opposition to immigration in itself, but rather the opposite, explaining the reason for the in practice opposition being a failed integration policy and worry of Islamism.

In the so-called "100-day program", released before the 2009 election, the party set the official goal of reducing the flow of new asylum seekers with about 90%, from 1.000 to 100 a month, the standards currently used in Denmarkmarker and Finlandmarker. Even stricter standards, such as a bar of 100 asylum seekers a year, have however been suggested as recently as 2008. Immigration political spokesman Per-Willy Amundsen then further said the party want to "avoid illiterates and other poorly resourced groups who we see are not able to adopt in Norway", with some specific countries including Somaliamarker, Afghanistanmarker and Pakistanmarker. Amundsen and party leader Jensen also thought it was wrong that asylum seekers get to stay in Norway on humanitarian grounds or because of health issues.

A poll conducted by Utrop in August 2009 showed that 10% (14% if the respondants answering "Don't know" are removed) of immigrants in Norway would vote for the Progress Party, only beaten by the Labour Party, when asked. More specificallly, this constituted 9% of both African and Eastern European immigrants, 22% of Western European immigrants and 3% of Asian immigrants. By comparison, 22.9% of the electorate voted for the Progress Party in the 2009 parlamentary elections. Numerous people with minority background are also active in the party, most notably deputy parliamentary representative Iranian-Norwegian Mazyar Keshvari.

International affiliation

The Progress Party does not belong to any international political groups, or does not have any official sister parties, however it has been known to receive and seek unofficial influence and cooperation with some individual political parties. International secretary Kristian Norheim of the party in 2008 said the party had been connected with a "misunderstood right-wing radical label", partly because of the long-term international isolation, and partly because historically persons with more nationalistic and "hopeless attitudes" had been involved in the party. Such persons were said to no longer be involved with the party (see History, and for instance the Democrats).

Denmark

In Denmark, the Progress Party considers Venstre to be their sister party. Originally the Danish Venstre was alligned with the Norwegian party with the same name, and as late as 2006 the international secretary of Venstre, Niels Kirkegaard, said that "we have nothing in common with the Norwegian FrP". In 2009 however, the leader of Venstre, Inger Støjberg, had changed and gave her support for the Progress Party, also saying there were "great similarities" between the parties, with news agencies claiming Venstre had "engaged" itself with the Progress Party.

The Progress Party has also been compared to the more right-wing Danish People's Party, with journalist Lars Halskov suggesting the great support for the party to be a combination of the immigration policies of the DPP and liberalism of Venstre. International secretary Kristian Norheim of the Progress Party in 2008 however said that the DPP "belongs to a group of parties we in FrP does not want any contact with whatsoever", reflecting especially on the immigration policy. Norheim also says that as the DPP has moved to the left in economic issues, the Progress Party considers, not taking the national conservative policies in account, the party to be "social democratic" and "socialist".

Other

While the Progress Party has been reluctant to join international groups, the party has been approached for international cooperation by more nationalist parties such as Belgian Vlaams Belang and French Front National. The Progress Party however, at least as of 2008, consider these, along with the Danish People's Party and the Sweden Democrats to have "murky" "anti-liberal and nationalist foundations". The party say they "are worried by the development of such parties [...] and strongly distance [them]selves with the values they stand for".

The Progress Party rather considers itself to be connected with a "misunderstood right-wing radical label". In 2008 some of the parties Norheim regarded the Progress Party closer to included more liberal conservative parties such as the Czech Civic Democratic Party, the British Conservative Party, the Spanish People's Party, the French Union for a Popular Movement and "partly" the (now defunct) Italian Forza Italia.

Party leadership



Parliamentary election results

Year % of votes Members of the Stortingmarker
1973 5.0 4
1977 1.9
1981 4.5 4
1985 3.7 2
1989 13.0 22
1993 6.3 10
1997 15.3 25
2001 14.6 26
2005 22.1 38
2009 22.9 41


See also



Notes

References

Bibliography



External links




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