Norwegian Left Courts Pakistani Vote

Election time in Norway: Halvorsen campaigning
On 12 September, Norway elects a new Storting (Parliament). Kristin Halvorsen, the president of the Socialist Left Party SV began her electoral campaign last week with a five-day visit to India and Pakistan.

Immigrants make up 3.6% of the Norwegian electorate in the general elections. In Oslo, however, this figure is 12%. For the municipal elections, where everybody who has lived in Norway for three years is entitled to vote, the Oslo figure is 18%. A large part of the Norwegian immigrant population is of Pakistani origin. Most of the Norwegian Pakistanis come from the region of Kharian, a Punjabi town that is sometimes referred to locally as “Little Norway”  because so many families have relatives in Norway. Halvorsen hopes that campaigning in Kharian during the holiday season will help her win votes in Norway next month.

Halvorsen is not the first Norwegian politician to campaign abroad. Carl I. Hagen of the right-wing Progress Party has done so too. Hagen, however, campaigned among emigrated Norwegians. Many retired Norwegians settle along the Costa del Sol in Spain. The Progress Party even has a local branch in Spain.

The SV is not the only Norwegian party courting the immigrant vote. All Norwegians parties are doing the same, including the “anti-immigrant” Progress Party. In 1993, Carl I. Hagen participated in the festivities for the Pakistani national holiday on 14 August, a few weeks before the municipal elections.

Ideologically the Christian Democrat KRF has a program that should appeal most to the Norwegian Muslims because of its emphasis on traditional moral values. The leftist SV is in favour of adoption rights for gays, which Pakistani voters overwhelmingly reject. When addressing immigrant audiences Kristin Halvorsen feels compelled to downplay her party’s position on ethical issues as well as her ardent feminism. She qualified the SV’s opposition to forced marriages by stressing that there is a difference between forced marriages and arranged marriages which are common in the Norwegian immigrant community of Pakistani origin. The issue is a topical one at a moment when Rahila Iqbal, a young Norwegian woman of Pakistini origin, is suspected to have been killed by her father “to save the family’s honor.”